The lockdown in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will not be lifted, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said as the country, which tries to stem a Delta variant outbreak, reported the worst number of cases on Monday of Covid-19 in 11 days.
Some 1.7 million Auckland residents will remain under a strict Level 4 lockdown until midnight on September 21, Ardern said at a press conference in the capital Wellington.
According to the government’s plan, Covid-19 restrictions in the city will then be relaxed to level 3, the prime minister added.
Level 4 foreclosure rules prohibit people from leaving their homes without valid reasons. They only allow the most essential businesses – like supermarkets or gas stations – to remain operational, with all gatherings banned and public facilities, including schools, closed.
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The news that the curbs will remain in place came as no huge surprise after New Zealand reported 33 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, which was the worst number in 11 days.
All of these infections were recorded in Auckland, which has become the hotspot for the country’s Delta variant. Since the outbreak began four weeks ago, the city has seen 938 people contract the virus, with 17 more cases reported in Wellington.
New Zealand, which cut itself off from the rest of the world during the pandemic, had remained largely coronavirus-free, but the island nation introduced severe stay-at-home orders in mid-August due to an outbreak of the Delta variant. Restrictions were then relaxed for most of the country, but Auckland has been stranded for almost a month now.
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Ardern’s cabinet is also criticized for a slow vaccine rollout, with only around 35% of New Zealand’s 5 million people fully vaccinated so far.
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