New Zealand reports another 35 Covid cases as outbreak grows to 107 | New Zealand
New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown is extending until at least the end of the week, as the country battles to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Auckland – the country’s largest city, where the majority of cases are – will remain in lockdown until the end of the month.
“We don’t yet believe we’ve reached the peak of this outbreak or necessarily the edges of it,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said. “The safest option for all of us right now is to hold the course for longer.”
On Monday, New Zealand recorded another 35 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number in its outbreak to 107.
New Zealand has tested about 3% of its population over the past week. Ardern said testing showed estimates of the transmission rate – the average number of people each case passes Covid on to – may be six or higher. “You may recall from previous outbreaks this number needs to be less than one in order for the virus to be stamped out. So we have some way to go yet,” Ardern said.
The country moved into a nationwide level 4 lockdown – the highest setting – on Tuesday last week, after one case of the Delta variant emerged in the community. The swift move into lockdown forms part of New Zealand’s ambitious elimination strategy.
The nationwide lockdown will be reviewed again on Friday, and Auckland’s lockdown will be reviewed at the end of the week.
Of the 107 cases, 99 are in Auckland, and eight are in Wellington. Seventy-two are epidemiologically linked, with the remaining still under investigation, but believed likely to be linked. So far, the outbreak is contained to the North Island cities, but Ardern said the contacts of those infectious were spread around the country.
Health officials said all of the cases have now been, or are being, transferred to a managed isolation facility, under strict infection prevention and control procedures, including the use of full personal protective equipment.
“It’s not unexpected to see a rise in daily case numbers at this stage. At its peak last year, New Zealand had a daily total of 89 new cases,” the Ministry of Health said.
More than 300 locations are listed for potential exposure, including schools, universities, hospitals, churches, bars, restaurants, airports and a casino. Nearly 13,000 close contacts across the country have now been identified, and are being tested.
On Sunday, 35,766 tests were carried out, with 11,000 of those taken at community testing centres – the biggest day on record for those centres yet. Wastewater testing produced no new positive results on Monday, but has previously detected the virus at sites in Auckland and Wellington.
About 35,800 vaccine doses were administered on Sunday, 10,000 more than on the previous Sunday.
Genome sequencing has linked the 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. Health officials are now investigating a walk-way near the quarantine facility’s exercise area, which is sectioned off from the public with road cones and a fence.
Another area, an internal thoroughfare within the atrium of that facility – Crowne Plaza – is also being investigated.
Six people have been identified as walking through that thoroughfare while a positive case was in the lobby. Of those, four have returned a negative test result, and two are pending results.
Health officials say there is a possibility of airflow between the lobby and atrium.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is to update the nation later on Monday over whether the current lockdown settings, in place until midnight Tuesday, will be extended.