New Zealand's coronavirus outbreak spreads to South Island

PM Jacinda said NZ will end strict lockdown measures only when 90% of its eligible population is fully vaccinated


Reuters October 23, 2021
A sign on an Auckland motorway urges people to get vaccinated at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination clinic during a single-day vaccination drive, aimed at significantly increasing the percentage of vaccinated people in the country, in Auckland, New Zealand, October 16, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

New Zealand reported 104 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, including the first community case of the virus in the country's South Island in nearly a year, health officials said.

Most of the new infections were reported in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city that has been under a strict lockdown for more than two months. Looser restrictions are in place in most of the rest of the country of 5 million.

The risks of a further spread from the case reported in Blenheim, in the north east of the South Island, remained low, health officials said, with the person likely in the late stage of infection.

"So far, initial case interviews have identified a small number of close contacts, who have been contacted and are currently isolating with tests arranged," the health ministry said in a statement.

Read New Zealand's daily COVID-19 cases fall, some classrooms to reopen

On Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that New Zealand will end its strict lockdown measures and restore more freedoms only when 90% of its eligible population is fully vaccinated. As of Saturday, 70% of those eligible were fully inoculated.

Once the poster child for stamping out COVID-19, New Zealand has been unable to beat an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 centred in Auckland, forcing Ardern to abandon her elimination strategy and switch to living with the virus.

The number of cases in the current outbreak reached 2,492 and New Zealand has recorded 28 coronavirus-related deaths so far in the pandemic.

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