New Zealand police are establishing checkpoints south of Auckland, the country’s largest city, to prevent people from moving illegally between regions with varying levels of virus restrictions.
“Checkpoints on the outskirts of Auckland will stop vehicles and question drivers, ensuring there is no non-essential movement in the area,” said Andrew Coster, the country’s police commissioner, in a statement.
New Zealand has been under strict national lockdown since August 17, after a single case of the more contagious Delta variant was identified in the community. The country has since reported more than 600 cases, with 33 hospitalizations. From Wednesday, most of New Zealand will move to a less severe Level 3 lockdown, while Auckland will remain under the highest level of restrictions for another two weeks.
Crossing the border between regions is only allowed in very limited circumstances, including for cargo deliveries, to receive a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine or to care for a sick person.
The lockdowns are another example of the challenges the Delta variant has posed for countries that have followed a ‘Covid Zero’ approach, aimed at eliminating the virus entirely in their territory and then keeping it out with strict border rules. New Zealand embarked on this plan early on, and its success has allowed residents to live with almost no restrictions during most of the pandemic. In total, the country has reported less than 3,500 cases and only 26 deaths.
North of Auckland, Maori tribes have consulted with police over putting up community-run roadblocks to prevent Aucklanders from traveling to the Northland region after easing restrictions later this week.
Community group Tai Tokerau Border Control, which uses the region’s Maori name, operated checkpoints alongside police during last year’s lockdown. The group were discouraged from doing so under current restrictions due to the more contagious nature of the Delta variant, police said.
“We are forced into the situation, because check with our marae“- the Maori word for a community house -” and the elders, they are very worried, “Reuben Taipari, a group coordinator, told New Zealand media Stuff of the group’s desire to run its own roadblocks. “They almost demand that we stand up.