NZ lockdown decision looms after 20 cases

·2-min read

New Zealand has reported 20 new COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day.

The new infections, all in Auckland, come ahead of a decision from Jacinda Ardern's government on Monday about countrywide alert levels.

NZ has spent 19 days in lockdown after the government ratcheted up the restrictions off the back of one case.

That decision appears to be bearing fruit, with daily case numbers dropping to 20 on Sunday from a peak of 83 a week earlier.

"We are heading in the right direction when it comes to getting control of this outbreak," Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said.

However, the country is hoping to eliminate the outbreak and bring cases down to zero once more.

Officials have been notoriously conservative with their COVID-19 settings, and doubly so in the face of this Delta outbreak.

Aucklanders, comprising the vast majority of this outbreak's cases, have already been told they will spend at least another week in lockdown.

The outlook is not so clear for the rest of the country, which is at level three.

Wellington has not had a positive case active in the community since August 20.

The South Island has not had a case at all during this outbreak. Its last community case was of an MIQ nurse in February.

Both of those places may move to alert level two, which allows Kiwis to return to work and school, with all but the biggest gatherings to resume.

Mr Robertson said alert level changes "will be made on the latest public health advice that we have".

"We will continue to look for the things we always look for ... the absence of cases, the absence of positive wastewater testing, making sure that all those contacts who had further testing to be done," he said.

After less than 10,000 tests on Saturday, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said he wanted a renewed effort to ensure the outbreak remained controlled.

"We want to see testing numbers in Auckland increase," he said.

"We want to make sure we have the confidence that the 20 cases out there are the only cases out there."

Sunday's 20 cases take the total number of infections to 801.

A total of 38 Kiwis are in hospital, with six in intensive care and four being ventilated.

Dr Bloomfield agreed case numbers were looking better.

"It's not so much the number but where we are finding those cases. There are very few new exposure events," he said.

The number of new infections is also being outstripped by recoveries, reducing the burden on both the health system and NZ's quarantine hotel system.

In the past three days, 68 new cases have been identified, while 85 people have recovered.

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