Aug. 24 (UPI) — New Zealand’s government on Monday extended its nationwide lockdown amid a growing outbreak of COVID-19 infections.
The nationwide lockdown will be extended until at least midnight Friday when officials will determine whether to extend it further, while the city of Auckland, where the cluster of infections originated, will remain in lockdown until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 31, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in an update.
“The safest option for all of us right now is to hold the course for longer,” said Ardern. “We don’t yet believe we have reached the peak of this outbreak yet, or necessarily the edge of it.”
The number of cases in the cluster grew to 107 on Monday, making it the second-largest in the country, with health experts anticipating it will likely continue to grow rapidly as Ardern said cases “may continue to get worse before they get better.”
The prime minister also announced that Parliament’s sittings would be suspended for a week while ministers would be available to appear virtually before select committees.
New Zealand re-entered lockdown last week, allowing only essential services like supermarkets and pharmacies to run and requiring all residents to stay at home, after reporting its first locally transmitted COVID-19 infection in six months.
The patient — an unvaccinated 58-year-old male — tested positive for the virus in Auckland, where he lives. He was also known to have visited Coromandel.
Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said no infections appear to have occurred in Coromandel and no one had been infected outside of their household in Wellington.
Many of the infections appeared to stem from a church service held in Auckland last Sunday.
More than 14,000 contacts related to the cluster have been identified but only about half have been contacted.