New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country's latest lockdown will be extended once again as the number of coronavirus cases in the region continues to rise, a decision that was made to curb out the highly transmissible Delta variant's spread.
The country first entered lockdown status on Aug. 17 after a single case of coronavirus infection was reported. Officials initially assumed that the case was due to the Delta variant of COVID-19.
New Zealand's Latest Lockdown
The country's officials extended the initial lockdown by four days on Monday, and Ardern announced during a briefing that they would extend it further to last until Aug. 31 for the majority of the country.
Authorities noted that Auckland, the country's largest city, and the epicenter of the recent outbreak, would most likely stay under the nation's strictest level of lockdown, Level 4, for at least two more weeks, Business Insider reported.
Ardern said that Level 4 lockdown was the most efficient tool that officials could use to stomp out the spread of the coronavirus. Since the recording of the first case, the nation has reported 347 cases, Auckland accounted for 333 of those infections.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand recorded a total of 3,228 cases and 26 deaths, based on data from John Hopkins University. Auckland reported 70 new infections on Friday, higher than what was recorded in the area on Thursday at 68.
Many countries quickly criticized Ardern's decision to go into lockdown over a single case of the coronavirus. Some media outlets said New Zealand was a "mysterious socialist hermit nation" and that residents "languish in a COVID prison." Another said that the country was previously a welcoming nation that turned into an "isolated dystopia."
The comments come as evidence of the divide of how countries handle the coronavirus pandemic. While other nationals have accepted that they would need to live with the coronavirus, New Zealand is one of the few that is still dedicated to eradicating it, CNN Reported.
COVID-19 Elimination Strategy
Ardern's announcement puts the nation of nearly five million people under stay-at-home orders, with schools and most workplaces temporarily closing down until the end of the month, at the least. During a news conference, the prime minister said that while lockdowns have an effect, the Delta variant is making the situation complicated.
Many residents have supported the nation's strategy of eliminating the virus with strict border restrictions and lockdowns. However, officials are under criticism for their relatively slow vaccination programs compared to other well-developed countries.
The prime minister said New Zealand will continue its elimination strategy until the majority of the population has been fully vaccinated against the virus. "No one wants to use lockdowns forever, that's not our intention. But while we vaccinate, elimination is the goal," Ardern said.
Until now, about 80% of the nation's entire population has yet to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus infection. Government officials reported that about three million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have so far been administered across the region. They also reported a record number of 87,000 being vaccinated in the last 24 hours, Reuters reported.