WELLINGTON (Reuters) – A New Zealand-type delta virus has spread outside Auckland, its largest city, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to abruptly ban other regions on Sunday.
There were 32 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday in Auckland, which has been isolated since mid-August, and two in the Waikato region, about 147 kilometers (91 miles) south of Auckland. Ardern said parts of the area will be subject to a five-day lockdown.
He added that the government will decide on Monday whether Auckland’s 1.7 million residents will remain isolated from the rest of New Zealand.
Ardern imposed what was supposed to be a “short and severe” national lockdown in mid-August in response to the Auckland outbreak, which has now reached 1,328 cases.
But while the rest of the country has largely returned to normal life, the North Island city has remained closed.
“We are doing everything we can to keep and manage problems in Auckland,” Ardern said.
While New Zealand was among the few countries that cut COVID-19 cases to zero last year and remained largely virus-free until the outbreak last August, difficulties in crushing the delta variant have called Ardern’s strategy to eliminate the disease into question.
Amid mounting pressure, Ardern said his strategy was never to have no cases, but to aggressively eradicate the virus.
He said the strict lockdowns could end if 90% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, up from the current 46%.
On Sunday, the Minister for COVID-19 Response, Chris Hopkins, said that full vaccination will become a requirement for non-New Zealand citizens arriving in the country from 1 November.
Air New Zealand (AIR.NZ) On Sunday, it said it would require passengers on its international flights to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. to know more
“We have a different approach to Covid in our eyes and in our hands,” Ardern said on Sunday.
“So as we all look ahead and think about summer and the plans we’re making, let’s take the first step for a vaccine. It’s the thing that will make those summer plans possible.”
(This story has been reworked to correct the spelling in the reporting credit limit, and no changes have been made to the story’s text.)
Additional reporting by Pravin Menon in Wellington. Written by Lydia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Daniel Wallis
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