New Zealand lifts Covid-19 curbs, says Delta elimination in sight

Restrictions to remain in Auckland, as Ardern continues elimination strategy

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern: ‘We are within sight of elimination, but we can’t drop the ball.’ Photograph: Mark Mitchell/AFP/via Getty

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern: ‘We are within sight of elimination, but we can’t drop the ball.’ Photograph: Mark Mitchell/AFP/via Getty

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday said nationwide coronavirus curbs would be lifted, bar in the biggest city of Auckland, as the country gets on top of an outbreak of the Delta variant.

New Zealand had been largely virus-free, excluding a small cluster of cases in February, until an infected traveller from Australia seeded an outbreak that prompted Ms Ardern to impose the national lockdown last week.

Ms Ardern, who said restrictions would be eased outside of Auckland from Wednesday, is continuing to pursue an elimination strategy for the disease.

“We are within sight of elimination, but we can’t drop the ball,” Ms Ardern said at a televised news conference. “Day by day we are making very good progress. What I don’t want to do is move too quickly and then see a resurgence.”

About 1.7 million people in greater Auckland, the epicentre of the outbreak, will remain in a full level 4 lockdown until at least September 14th.

The easing of the alert status to level 2 from level 3 in the rest of the country will allow the reopening of schools, offices and businesses. Regional travel will also be allowed.

Face masks will still be required inside most public venues, including shops and malls. Indoor hospitality venues will be limited to 50 patrons and outdoor venues to 100 people.

Ms Ardern says that masks were not being mandated in schools, but the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said it is “recommended, but not required”.

Gatherings would be limited to 50 people for indoor gatherings, hospitality settings, and events, as well as being socially distanced. Outdoor venues can have 100 people, as long as people are socially distanced.

Daily new cases in the current outbreak have dropped from a peak of 85 on August 29th to 20 on Monday.

The current outbreak is responsible for 821 of the country’s total of about 3,400 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. It has reported 27 deaths.

Ms Ardern’s tough lockdowns and international border closure helped rein in Covid-19, but the government now faces questions over a delayed vaccine rollout and rising costs in a country heavily reliant on an immigrant workforce.

Just about 30 per cent of the country’s 5.1 million people has been fully vaccinated, the slowest pace among the wealthy nations of the OECD grouping. – Reuters/Guardian