New Zealand recorded 24 new local cases of coronavirus on Sunday, all in Auckland, a day before a decision is due on whether to ease the city’s level 4 lockdown.
Health officials warned that case numbers would increase in coming days because some recent cases had come from large households. The director of public health, Caroline McElnay, said they were still “cautiously optimistic” that the bulk of the outbreak was under control.
Three of Sunday’s cases are not linked to existing cases. Of the 21 remaining cases, 19 were household contacts of known cases. Twelve were in quarantine when tested and the rest were isolating at home.
One of the unlinked cases is a prisoner in Auckland. Ardern said there was a “tentative” link but investigations were ongoing. McElnay said the prisoner had been travelling in the Firth of Thames area with another person, who was on parole. The case has meant six prisoners, five prison staff and four police have needed to go into isolation.
On Saturday, 20 cases were reported in Auckland, up from 11 on Friday. All of Saturday’s cases were linked to existing cases, McElnay said on Sunday.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said: “The tail of Delta is long and it is tough. It doesn’t change what we need to do, and that continues to be stay at home, and get vaccinated.”
The new cases continue despite a month of lockdown in Auckland, raising questions as to whether New Zealand will be successful in its aim of eliminating the virus.
The first case in this outbreak was identified on 17 August, with Ardern ordering a whole-of-country lockdown within hours of that positive test.
The total outbreak totals 1,050 people, with 1,033 in Auckland and the remaining 17 in Wellington.
Hospitalisations remain low, with 13 people being treated in three Auckland hospitals, including four in intensive care.
With Australian Associated Press