Updated Aug 23, 2021 - Health

PM extends New Zealand lockdown, says elimination goal "absolutely" right

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reacts during a COVID-19 response update at Parliament on Saturday in Wellington, New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reacts during a COVID-19 response update at Parliament on Saturday in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Robert Kitchin/Pool/Getty Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that New Zealand's pandemic elimination strategy was working, as she announced an extension to the nationwide lockdown due to a growing COVID-19 Delta outbreak.

Why it matters: NZ locked down last Tuesday after detecting the first community case in nearly six months — marking the arrival of the Delta variant in the island nation. The cluster has grown to 107 cases, with 35 more people testing positive for the virus Monday.

What they're saying: Ardern said at a briefing in the capital, Wellington, that "for now, absolutely elimination is the strategy" the government should use as coronavirus vaccinations continue to ramp up nationwide.

  • "We know that an elimination strategy has worked before," she added, pointing to the large periods New Zealand residents had enjoyed no restrictions — a goal she said she aims to return to.

The big picture: Ardern said at the briefing that the entire country would remain at its highest lockdown level until Friday, when this restriction would be reviewed.

  • But Auckland, the epicenter of the outbreak that's been traced to Sydney, would remain on alert level 4 until Aug. 31.

Between the lines: Scientist Shaun Hendy, who heads a scientific body advising the government, told Axios via email that level 4 restrictions were effective, and "we should start to see a decline in cases toward the end of this week."

  • Australia is facing outbreaks across the country, with New South Wales reporting a record 830 cases.
  • State capital Sydney, where most of the cases are, has been on lockdown since late June. But the state hasn't seen the same level of compliance to health measures as in New Zealand.

What to watch: The elimination strategy would remain the best option provided the lockdown brought case numbers down as expected, per Hendy.

  • COVID-19 vaccination coverage of 70% to 80% of NZ's total population could see the country's restrictions strategy change, according to the Te Pūnaha Matatini research center chief.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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