New Zealand on Tuesday recorded the highest increase in COVID-19 cases since April 2020, as authorities warned that the current outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is like dealing with an entirely new virus.
Virus-free operation in the South Pacific nation ended since February last week after a variable delta outbreak broke out in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and quickly spread to the capital, Wellington.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said at a press conference that authorities reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 148. This is the largest increase in cases since April 10, 2020, according to Health Ministry data.
Of the new cases, 38 are in Auckland and three are in Wellington. The ministry said eight people linked to the current outbreak are in hospital so far.
“Delta is different from our previous experience,” Bloomfield told a news conference. “As we know, it’s highly contagious, transmissible, and as we’ve seen it spreads rapidly.”
But he said it was reassuring to see that the numbers were not rising significantly and that the majority were still in Auckland.
Authorities have reported a group of at least 58 people of Samoan ethnicity associated with the Samoan Assembly of God Church in Auckland.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health said there were racist comments directed at the community.
“The virus is the problem, not the people,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won global praise for eradicating COVID-19 in the country.
But its reliance on strict border controls and sudden closures that have affected the economy has been called into question amid the recent outbreak, which occurred while few people were vaccinated.
On Monday, Ardern extended its strict level 4 national lockdown to August 27.
In neighboring Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is also under mounting pressure due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, said eradication of the disease cannot be pursued forever, citing New Zealand as an example.
“Any state and territory that thinks they can somehow protect themselves from COVID with a Delta strain forever, that’s absurd,” he said on the 9News Today breakfast show.
“I mean, New Zealand can’t do that,” he said. “They were following an elimination strategy. They’re in lockdown. The way through that is to get to the 70% and 80% (vaccination) marks, and open it up safely.”
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