New Zealand will extend the current coronavirus restrictions in its largest city of Auckland until Sunday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
An abrupt resurgence of COVID-19 about two weeks ago in Auckland prompted Ardern to put the city’s 1.7 million residents in a lockdown, forcing businesses to close and schools to shut. The lockdown was due to expire on Wednesday.
Ardern said everyone using public transport under level two restrictions or above will be required to wear masks or any face covering to contain the spread of the virus.
The Auckland lockdown, imposed on Aug. 11 after officials detected the country’s first locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in more than three months, had been scheduled to end on Wednesday.
It will now end on Sunday night. The city’s step down from Level 3 to Level 2 restrictions will be made gradually from Monday, Ardern said.
Around 150 people have been diagnosed as part of the cluster that originated in Auckland, which is home to 1.7 million people, but daily new case numbers have slowed to single-digit increases over the past three days.
“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,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington.
To maintain control as Auckland eases down to Level 2 restrictions, which will allow schools and shops to reopen, public gatherings will still be restricted to a maximum of 10 people, Ardern said. The rest of the country will remain at Level 2 restrictions, but with the broader limit of up to 100 people at public gatherings. Both situations will be reviewed before Sept. 6, she said.
New Zealand, which has a population of 5 million, has so far recorded just over 1,300 COVID-19 cases, including 22 deaths.