New Zealand considers splitting the country in TWO to fight Indian Delta outbreak as it records another 21 Covid cases
- New Zealand recorded 21 new local Covid cases on Saturday amid lockdown
- The PM said restrictions scheduled to lift on Tuesday would likely be extended
- Ms Arden said many options were being considered including dividing NZ
- Lockdown could be eased on the South Island while strengthened on the North
Jacinda Ardern warned Kiwis that New Zealand’s Indian delta outbreak of Covid-19 is about to surge after a jump in cases and that extreme restrictions including splitting the country in two would be considered.
New Zealand recorded 21 new community cases on Saturday – its highest number for a single day since April last year – as the entire country remains in a lockdown announced earlier this week.
The outbreak remains centred on Auckland where there are 45 active cases and 18 on Saturday but has spread south to the capital Wellington with six active cases and three on Saturday.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured on Saturday) said her government was considering tightening restrictions on the North Island were there has been the majority of cases
On the fourth day of a nationwide lockdown (pictured), New Zealand has recorded another 21 Covid cases
The national lockdown will probably need to be extended beyond the originally announced week as potential exposure sites have grown to more than 200.
The number of close contacts in isolation exceeds 5000 with the Director General of Public Health Caroline McElnay saying this would double before Sunday.
The whole country is currently locked down in alert level 4 until at least Tuesday.
Ms Ardern said all options were being considered in regards to lockdowns after then including splitting the country in two and keeping a harsh lockdown for the North Island and easing restrictions for the South Island.
If this were to happen travel between the two islands would also be banned – with an Air New Zealand flight between Auckland and Wellington already flagged as an exposure site.
Ms Ardern urged Kiwis to remain calm as numbers continue to spike.
‘The number of cases has grown again but given the large number of locations of interest and what we know about Delta, this isn’t surprising,’ she said.
The delta outbreak spread from Auckland on the North Island to Wellington on the South Island via a plane flight (pictured: a Wellington testing clinic)
‘We’ve always said cases would rise before they fall. We do expect cases to continue to rise through to next week before they start falling away.’
Ms Ardern said she was hesitant to share ‘variable’ modelling data which might predict the peak of the outbreak.
All the known cases have either been linked to the same source, or appear to be based on initial assessments.
Officials believe that source is a border failure: a leak of the virus from a man from Sydney during his stay in a quarantine hotel facility earlier this month.
A large proportion of those infected are young people under 30.
NZ, lauded internationally for its successful COVID-19 elimination strategy, had enjoyed 170 days without community transmission until Tuesday.
New Zealanders look set to be in for an extended lockdown as case numbers rose again on Saturday (pictured: a runner in Wellington)
However, until this week, it had not encountered Delta – the same variant which has pushed cases in Sydney to breaking point.
A travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand was paused for eight weeks in July.
Despite the rampaging outbreak, NZ is rising to meet the challenge.
On Friday, the country beat its record for most vaccinations administered: 56,843, or more than one per cent of the population in a single day.
But the country’s overall vaccination rate remains low, slipping behind even Australia’s stuttering rollout.
Just a third of Kiwis have had at least one jab and less than a fifth are fully vaccinated.
NZ is relying upon Pfizer for its initial rollout, which it hopes to complete this year.
The other promising sign Ms Ardern said was a record for the most Covid tests processed in a single day – 41,464.
‘This is exactly what we need to do get on top of this outbreak, but also to prepare us for the future,’ Ms Ardern said.
Ms Ardern’s government will meet on Monday to decide its lockdown settings beyond Tuesday.
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