New Zealand to scale back Auckland lockdown after 22 new COVID-19 cases recorded

New Zealand health officials reported 22 new community cases of COVID-19 on Monday, including three outside Auckland.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Source: AAP

Jacinda Ardern's government is scaling back Auckland's lockdown this week despite an ongoing trail of COVID-19 infections and new cases found outside the city.

On Monday, Ms Ardern's cabinet opted to move Auckland's 1.7 million residents from a level four lockdown to level three.

The decision will take effect from Wednesday for at least two weeks, providing Aucklanders with relief after five weeks at level four conditions.

Level three retains stay-at-home orders and allows for more businesses to open, including cafes and restaurants for takeaway orders.

"We are confident, as has been relayed to us from the local health teams, there is no significant undetected transmission," Ms Ardern said.

"We are not stepping out of level four because we think the job is done.

"We are moving because level three provides a cautious approach where we continue to stamp out COVID-19."

New Zealand's latest outbreak was first identified on 17 August. A nationwide lockdown took effect from the next day.

With cases concentrated in Auckland, places outside NZ's biggest city were released from lockdown three weeks later, while restrictions remained there. 

"We thank Auckland for their tireless work and we keep going," Ms Ardern said.

On Monday, health officials reported 22 new cases.

Of those cases, six were infectious in the community and five are yet to be linked back to the outbreak.

There has been a small uptick in hospitalisations, with 16 people being treated in Auckland hospitals, including four in intensive care.

Of most concern are three new cases in Whakatiwai, on the fringe of the Auckland region's border in the Firth of Thames region.

Health officials believe they are linked to the Auckland outbreak through a remand prisoner from Auckland's Mt Eden prison. 

That man was bailed to a Whakatiwai household on 8 September, and he tested positive on his return to Auckland at the end of his bail on 16 September.

Of the nine-strong household, three have tested positive - including two children who attended the nearby Mangatangi School.

In response, Ms Ardern has ordered a "bespoke" five-day lockdown for the area to contain the spread.

"We have been thrown curveballs before in this outbreak and this is one where a strong local response will make all the difference," she said.

Published 20 September 2021 at 12:33pm, updated 20 September 2021 at 5:15pm
Source: AAP - SBS