New Zealand Covid update: national lockdown extended after 70 new cases | New Zealand

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New Zealand will remain in a full lockdown until midnight on Tuesday, with regions south of Auckland moving to level 3 after then, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced.

The update came after 70 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the community, bringing the total number in New Zealand’s outbreak to 347.

Of the cases, 333 were in Auckland, and 14 were in Wellington. One of the Auckland cases was based one hour north of the city, in the town of Warkworth.

Ardern said cabinet would decide on the lockdown setting in Auckland and the neighbouring Northland region on Monday, but said it was likely Auckland would stay in level 4 – the highest setting – for another two weeks.

“This is so we can get Delta under control and reopen fully and safely. We simply can’t do that if we still have a lot of Delta circulating in the community. To move safely down, we will need to be confident we have stamped it out and have cases contained and isolated,” she said.

Cabinet had decided to keep the country in level 4 before downgrading to level 3 next week, for three main reasons.

“It will give us the confidence of an almost full 14 day cycle since our first case was discovered, especially given we had contacts across all parts of the country, and over 300 in the South Island,” Ardern said.

“The second reason is that we do have cases in Wellington, and while currently contained did have contacts that are due further testing over the coming days.

“Thirdly, we did see a positive wastewater test, in the South Island, namely Christchurch, yesterday. It’s likely that this is a result of positive cases in a managed isolation facility, but further tests, and a few extra days will allow us to answer that question.”

Level 3 lockdown prevents regional travel, requires people to stay in their bubble, public venues remain closed, and gatherings are limited to 10 people but only for weddings and funerals. Restaurants and retail can open but only for click-and-collect or delivery.

Health officials reported on Friday morning that nineteen cases are in hospital, with one person in intensive care.

There are now 29,851 individual close contacts identified and about 76% of these had had a test. In the August 2020 outbreak, just 1,500 close contacts were identified.

There are more than 500 locations listed for potential exposure, including schools, universities, hospitals, churches, bars, restaurants, airports, a casino and a rugby game.

On Thursday, 90,757 vaccine doses were administered – a daily record. More than 3.11m doses in total have now been given out.

The decision to place the country into a level 4 lockdown was made after one case of the Delta variant in the community emerged last week.

Genome sequencing has linked the Auckland cluster to a returnee from Australia. It is not yet known how the virus was transmitted from the traveller, who was in quarantine, to the community, but a walkway and an atrium in the facility where the person was staying are being investigated.

The director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, told the NZ Herald a possible link had been established between the facility and a case in the Māngere church sub-cluster – a development that could fill in the missing link of how the virus was transmitted.

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