Jacinda Ardern has extended New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown by four days as the country continues to battle its second wave of infection.
Aucklanders were expecting tough level three restrictions to be eased at midnight on Wednesday but the prime minister pushed that back to 11.59pm on Sunday.
From next week the city will be placed under level two restriction, along with the rest of the nation, meaning cafes and restaurants can reopen but there is still a limit on gatherings.
Residents must also continue to adhere to social distancing rules.
The alert level will be reviewed on September 6 and may be dropped to level one, meaning all restrictions are eased expect for international travel.
Ms Ardern said the government and health officials wanted to ensure they had contained the outbreak before they moved to a lower level.
Jacinda Ardern (pictured) has extended New Zealand’s coronavirus lockdown by four days as the country continues to battle its second wave of infection
Auckland streets will remain empty for another week as the lockdown is pushed back (Pictured: Empty streets are seen during Level Three)
The rest of the nation will remain under level two (Pictured: Wellington retail staff follow safe practice protocols during COVID-19 level 2 restrictions)
Face masks will become mandatory on all public transport across the country from Monday to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
The announcement came as the country recorded nine new cases, taking the total active cases to 123.
The largest cluster is based in Auckland, which was part of the reason for extending the lockdown, Ms Ardern said.
‘This is a contained cluster. But it is our biggest one. And that means the tail will be long, and the cases will keep coming for a while to come,’ she said during the media briefing on Monday.
Auckland reentered a stage three lockdown from on August 11. Pictured: Police performing checks during the last lockdown
People queue outside a supermarket in Henderson, Auckland, on Wednesday after restrictions were reintroduced (pictured)
‘What we need to do is put ourselves in the best long-term position to manage it successfully, and in the most contained way we can.
‘Ultimately, our goal needs to be managing this cluster from Level Two as soon as we feel confident we can do that. That means feeling confident we have the perimeter of the cluster well understood and defined, and are not seeing too many cases cropping up that we haven’t found through contact tracing.’
She said the elimination strategy was the best approach for the long-term benefit of New Zealand.
Adding that they were expecting to see new cases pop up over the next several weeks but heavy restrictions would not need to be imposed every time a new case appeared.
A waiter wearing a mask delivers takeaway coffee to customers waiting outside Dizengoff cafe in Ponsonby, Auckland on Thursday
Police question drivers as they head in and out of Auckland on SH1 north of Wellsford on Wednesday (pictured) amid new Stage Three lockdown
A police officer wearing a mask gets his morning coffee from The Store in Kohimarama as Auckland wakes to a return to Stage Three lockdown (pictured on Thursday)
Ms Ardern encouraged New Zealanders to be vigilant in the weeks ahead by continuing to social distance and wash their hands.
HOW NEW ZEALAND’s SECOND OUTBREAK UNFOLDED
- Four people from the same family tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday
- NZ PM Jacinda Ardern ordered a stage three lockdown on Auckland and stage two for the rest of the country effective from Wednesday until Friday night
- Four more ‘probable’ coronavirus cases were detected on Wednesday, all linked to the family cluster
- Health authorities are investigating the possibility the virus was imported by freight, and picked up by one of the family members who works at a cold storage company
- A ninth COVID-19 case was also detected on Wednesday, in a traveller returning from Pakistan
She said in the coming weeks thousands of tests will be done and hundreds of contact tracers would be hard at work to stamp out the virus.
‘We have made a choice, and we have a clear plan that means we can get through however long this pandemic is in the world, and keep as much normality, including for our economy, as possible.
‘If anyone country knows how to bounce back, it is us. If it feels hard right now, that’s because it is – 2020 has frankly been terrible. But we’ve been strong, we’ve been kind and we’re doing really well.’
The mandatory wearing of face masks comes after several cases contracted the deadly virus on a bus journey between strangers.
‘This isn’t a decision we took lightly. But we know that masks protect you, and the people around you, and we now have a real-life example of that,’ Ms Ardern said.
‘They limit the chance of COVID-19 spreading in places where it is often harder to distance yourself, and to trace people.’
The nation had been the envy of the world for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, with 101 days without a single case of community transmission.
New Zealanders had been enjoying the return of their usual freedoms after an autumn lockdown seemed to have been effective in eliminating the deadly virus.
It has been just under two weeks since the country was thrown back into lockdown after the new cases began to emerge. The source of the outbreak remains unknown.
New Zealand records first cases of community transmission of COVID-19 for 102 days
* Four members of a south Auckland family have tested positive to COVID-19.
* The ‘index case’ is a person in their 50s who has been symptomatic for five days and has no overseas travel history.
* Six family members received a rapid test on Tuesday evening; three tests came back positive and three are negative.
* A student at Auckland’s Mount Albert Grammar School has tested positive for COVID-19.
* Health authorities are awaiting the test results for another four ‘probable’ cases of coronavirus – three adults and a teenager – linked to a family cluster.
* Health officials are moving to isolate and test contacts of the family, including two Auckland workplaces.
* Auckland returns to a ‘level three’ lockdown from noon on Wednesday until midnight on Friday. Aucklanders are being asked to stay home except for essential work or essential needs.
* The rest of New Zealand returns to ‘level two’ for the same timeframe, with caps on gatherings and the return of social distancing.
* These measures have been enacted to buy health officials time time to test and isolate contacts, and to locate the source of the outbreak.
* Every worker at NZ’s border regime and managed isolation facility will also be tested in the next few days.