Guardian News and Media/ Auckland
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will remain under a strict lockdown for at least another week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced, as the country battles to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.
The country reported 54 new cases of Covid-19 over the weekend, and 33 new cases yesterday – a slight rise from last week’s average.
There have now been a total of 955 cases in the outbreak.
While its overall trajectory is still moving well down from its peak, officials are concerned about a number of mystery cases that investigators and contact tracers have not yet been able to link with others.
Ardern yesterday said that while there was no widespread transmission in Auckland, or the rest of the country, these unlinked cases may indicate there were chains of transmission in the wider community.
Ardern said there were 17 active unlinked cases, but officials were mainly concerned about three or four of them.
“The fact that we are finding them through surveillance and community testing, rather than through contact tracing, that is what we’re concerned about because that does present risk,” she said.
“Alert level 4 is working,” Ardern said, but added that the job was not done yet.
“Level 4 remains our best option to beat Delta and contain the virus at this stage of the outbreak. We don’t want to risk the sacrifices everyone has made, and all the hard work you’ve put in, by moving to alert level three too quickly.”
Ardern thanked Aucklanders for their vigilance during the past month.
“You’ve done an amazing job so far protecting yourselves, your family and your community. In fact, all of your hard work is the reason that the rest of the country is safe. We owe you a debt of gratitude. I hope you know and feel that huge appreciation that we have for you, and the hard work that you’re putting in right now.
“The rest of the country will remain in alert level 2 – out of lockdown, but with some remaining restrictions on gathering size and mask-wearing – for another week.
Ardern said keeping the rest of the country in level 2 would ensure that if the virus got out of Auckland, the spread would be more controlled.
A total of 27 cases over the course of the outbreak, all in Auckland, have not yet been epidemiologically linked. The ministry of health said 10 of the 27 are now more than 14 days old.
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