New Zealand COVID-19 outbreak grows, Australia still struggles
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – New Zealand on Saturday reported seven new cases of the coronavirus as a lockdown in the country’s biggest city, Auckland, was extended on Friday in response to the country’s first coronavirus outbreak in months.
Six of the seven new cases have been linked to the cluster responsible for all the previous community cases, while one case was being investigated, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a media briefing in Wellington.
The new cases bring New Zealand’s total infections since the start of the year to 1258, while the number of currently active cases stands at 56. Twenty two people have died so far.
The lockdown in Auckland, home to 1.7 million people, was extended for nearly two weeks, and followed the discovery on Tuesday of the country’s first COVID-19 infections in 102 days, in a family in Auckland.
New Zealand and its neighbour Australia have suffered far less death and disease from the COVID-19 pandemic than many other nations, thanks in part to swift lockdown measures. Although economically costly, the measures raised public trust in the leaders of both countries significantly.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, is now, however, under pressure ahead of a upcoming general election, with the main opposition National Party accusing the government of failing to secure quarantine facilities and withholding information.
And Australia’s second most-populous state, Victoria, continues to struggle after it last month became the centre of the country’s biggest coronavirus outbreak. Its capital, Melbourne, is under a strict six-week lockdown and the rest of the state has limited public movement.
On Saturday, Victoria recorded 303 new cases and four deaths, following 372 new infections and 14 deaths on Friday.
Although Saturday’s numbers are well below the peak of 725 new cases seen on Aug. 5 and there has been some stabilisation in the outbreak, state authorities urged vigilance.
“The signs are encouraging but it is not over,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing.
“There is a long way to go and the only thing that wins if we get fatigued, if we were in a sense to give up, the only thing that wins is the coronavirus.”