| 29 May 2024, Wednesday |

New Zealand seals off northern region over suspected spread of COVID-19

On Tuesday, authorities planned to use police cordons to close off the northern tip of New Zealand, enforcing a lockdown in the area because to worries of an undetected COVID-19 community transmission.

According to Chris Hipkins, the minister leading the coronavirus response, a portion of the Northland area, about 270 kilometers (168 miles) north of Auckland, would go into level 3 lockdown at midnight.

The action is in response to two cases in the area that have not to be linked to any other known cases.

“It’s unclear how they could have possibly picked up the virus,” Hipkins told a news conference. “There could be undetected community transmission in Northland right now.”

The cabinet will review on Monday the decision to seal off the area, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country, with just 64% of North Island’s eligible population fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was visiting Northland on Tuesday, had to abruptly halt a media conference after being continuously interrupted and heckled by at least two people, who appeared to be anti-vaxxers.

One could be heard singing during the event, while another asked Ardern to identify a person who died in August after receiving the Pfizer vaccine, and accused her of lying to the public.

New Zealand won global praise last year for its response that stamped out the coronavirus.

But it has been tougher to quash the current outbreak of the Delta variant around Auckland, forcing authorities to decide to live with the virus rather than an earlier strategy of elimination.

Virus curbs in Auckland were extended by a week on Monday.

  • Reuters