New Zealand keeps pandemic curbs for another week in Auckland

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WELLINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) – New Zealand will extend coronavirus curbs for another week in its largest city of Auckland, but ease some after that, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday, another day of record new infections.

As New Zealand battles the spread of the infectious Delta variant of COVID-19, it has agreed on a Nov. 10 re-opening date for retail stores and institutions such as libraries and museums, Ardern told a news conference.

“Because of the high vaccination rates in Auckland we can move with greater confidence,” Ardern said.

“These decisions are carefully balanced and allows us to release some of the pressure and fatigue that we know exists in Auckland.”

The city’s limit on the size of outdoor gatherings was lifted to 25 people.

New Zealand won global praise last year for a response that stamped out the coronavirus, but has proved unable to quash the current outbreak, forcing it to adopt a strategy of living with the virus instead of the earlier aim of elimination.

Still, it has fared far better than many other countries, with tough curbs that have held COVID-19 infections to about 6,000 and a toll of just 28 deaths.

Daily cases have been rising to record highs in the last few days, with 162 on Monday. Of these, 53 sufferers were in hospital, with four in intensive care. Cases are expected to keep rising in a model of the outbreak released to the media.

But Ardern said high vaccination rates gave protection to keep down hospital admissions.

“Previously we worked hard to eliminate every case. While Delta has forced us to change our approach, vaccines ensure we have the same goal,” she added.

More than 75% of New Zealand, or about 3.1 million people, have now been fully vaccinated, while 88% have got one dose.

However, the government said an increasing number of new cases are among the indigenous Maori community, where the vaccination rate is lower.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Photo – EPA/NIKOS MITSOURAS

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