The New Zealand government reported on Tuesday that new cases of COVID-19 have fallen for a second day, to 49, amid the severe lockdown the country has undergone during the latest outbreak this month.
With the exception of a small number of cases in February, New Zealand was largely coronavirus-free for months, until an outbreak of the Delta variant imported from Australia prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to order a nationwide lockdown on August 17.
The total number of cases in the outbreak stands at 612, with 597 in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, and 15 in the capital Wellington.
The declining number of daily cases indicates that social restrictions are reducing the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, Ardern said at a news conference.
“We have a second day where our numbers have decreased. We want the tail of this outbreak to be as short as possible,” Ardern said.
About 1.7 million Aucklanders will remain in strict Level 4 lockdown for another two weeks, while restrictions for the rest of the country will ease slightly from Wednesday.
Police placed checkpoints on the outskirts of Auckland to ensure no non-essential movements were allowed into the city.
Police also said on Tuesday they arrested 19 people after protests against the lockdown across the country.
There are now 33 people in hospitals from the latest Delta outbreak, Health Director General Ashley Bloomfield said, with eight cases in stable condition in intensive care.
“It’s sobering to see six cases of the outbreak under one year old,” he said
But he added that public health measures in place have slowed the spread of the virus and the number of cases will continue to decline.
Ardern’s lockdowns, along with the international border closing from March 2020, have been credited with keeping COVID-19 in check.
However, the government now faces questions about a delayed vaccine rollout and rising costs in a country heavily dependent on immigrants.
Just over a quarter of the population has so far been fully vaccinated, the slowest rate among the rich countries of the OECD grouping.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)