New Zealand’s largest city Auckland faces two more weeks of alert level 4 as the the rest of the country prepares to move to level three from Tuesday midnight.
Speaking at a media conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the districts below Auckland would remain in alert level 4 for four more days, but Auckland and Northland were “likely” looking at two more weeks of a full lockdown.
“We will need to be confident we’ve stamped it out and have cases contained and isolated,” she said.
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Ardern said the lockdown in Auckland was working and was the best place for the region to be.
But Dr Ashley Bloomfield said officials would not need to see days of zero cases to move Auckland out of level 4.
Moving down alert levels in Auckland would require no new cases popping up unexpectedly over the coming week or two, Dr Bloomfield said.
Meanwhile, 19 people with covid-19 are currently being treated in Auckland hospitals, including one in ICU.
70 new community cases
In a statement – where it was revealed that there were 70 new community cases of covid-19 – the Health Ministry said all 19 patients were in a stable condition.
Two of the cases are in North Shore Hospital, eight are in Middlemore Hospital, and nine are in Auckland City Hospital.
The statement said the total number of cases linked to the current community outbreak was 347 – 333 in Auckland and 14 in Wellington.
Of the 70 new cases, 44 were Pacific peoples, 11 were Asian, six were European, six were Māori, and the ethnicity of three was unknown.
The lockdown move received a mixed response in Auckland, with some welcoming the caution, others hoping they would move to level 2 in time for the weekend, and leaders saying they want an indication on when they would move down alert levels.
Based on that number, Ardern said New Zealand “may be seeing the beginning of a plateau of cases”, but warned: “caution is still required.”
It was clear from the outbreak that delta was more infectious and moved more quickly, she said.
“Of the cases reported yesterday, roughly half were household contacts. Unfortunately we know from Australia that household members are almost universally becoming infected with covid-19, that means you can expect our numbers to continue for some time as household contacts continue to test positive,” she said.
Public health units were observing very fast infection times with delta, but it did not change the fact the strategy right now was elimination and “every New Zealander can play their part in that,” Ardern said.
“Lockdown is making a difference.
“We know covid’s not going away quickly, but our strategy can evolve.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.