New Zealand’s government has extended a strict nationwide lockdown through Tuesday as it tries to quash its first outbreak of the coronavirus in six months, the AP reports. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday the government expects to keep Auckland, where most of the cases have been found, in full lockdown for at least two more weeks. But she expects most other parts of the country can ease restrictions slightly from Wednesday. The lockdown prevents most people from leaving home other than to exercise, or to buy groceries or medicine. Retail stores are closed, as are restaurants—including takeout—schools and most businesses.
The announcement came as health authorities reported 70 new daily cases, the most yet in the outbreak, which has grown to nearly 350 cases in total. Ardern said there was evidence the lockdown was working and new case numbers were beginning to level off. She said she remained committed to the strategy of eliminating the virus entirely. By early next week, New Zealanders should know if the lockdown is working, the AP reports.
A successful effort could again make the nation's virus response the envy of the world. A failure could expose flaws in its health system, including a shortage of hospital beds and a slow vaccine rollout. The high-stakes campaign hinges on whether new infections, which have risen for the past 10 days, begin to drop. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said about 70 protesters and other rule-breakers have been arrested since the strict lockdown began, but he's happy with the overall level of compliance. (Read more New Zealand stories.)