New Zealand extends nationwide COVID-19 lockdown

Only about 19% of the country’s 5.1 million population has been fully vaccinated so far

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended New Zealand’s strict nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Friday, August 20, saying the full extent of the Delta outbreak was still unknown.

The lockdown will run until midnight on Tuesday, August 24,  Ms. Ardern told a news conference.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 outbreak widened beyond its largest city Auckland on Friday, August 20, 2021, as new infections were discovered in the capital Wellington and case numbers jumped to 31.

Health authorities said 11 new cases were recorded on Friday, of which three cases were in Wellington.

The three in Wellington had recently travelled to Aucklanda nd had visited locations that were identified as exposed to theo utbreak, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

New Zealanders were living virus-free and without curbs forn early six months until Ms. Ardern ordered a snap 3-day nationwide lockdown on Tuesday after a case was found in Auckland, the first in the country since February.

Ms. Ardern has won praise for containing local transmission of COVID-19 via an elimination strategy, imposing tough lockdowns and shutting New Zealand’s international border in March 2020.

But her government is now facing questions over a delayed vaccine rollout, as well as rising costs in a country heavily reliant on an immigrant workforce.

Just about 19% of the country’s 5.1 million population has been fully vaccinated so far, the slowest among OECD nations.

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