New Zealand Covid-19 cases steady ahead of easing curbs

A medical worker administers a Covid-19 test at a testing clinic in Auckland on Aug 26, 2021.
A medical worker administers a Covid-19 test at a testing clinic in Auckland on Aug 26, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) - New Zealand reported 20 new cases of Covid-19 for a third day in a row on Monday (Sept 6), ahead of the easing of coronavirus restrictions in most of the country.

All new cases were in Auckland, the epicentre of the current outbreak, and took the total number of infections to 821, the health ministry said in a statement.

New Zealand will ease Covid-19 curbs in all regions outside its biggest city of Auckland from midnight on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference.

Schools, offices and businesses can now operate with social distancing rules in place as the regions’ alert level shifts to 2 from 3, Ardern added.

New Zealand previously reported the first death in the current Covid-19 outbreak, a woman in her 90s who had a number of underlying health conditions.

About 1.7 million people in Auckland, the nation's largest city, have been in strict level 4 lockdown since the middle of last month.

Curbs have been eased in the rest of the country, but schools and offices as well as cafe, restaurants and all public venues remain shut. Most New Zealanders have been asked to stay indoors.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's lockdowns and international border closure since March last year have been credited with reining in Covid-19, largely freeing up day-to-day activities from curbs. But the government faces questions over a delayed vaccine roll-out, as well as rising costs in a country heavily reliant on an immigrant workforce.

Just more than a quarter of the population of 5.1 million have been fully vaccinated, the slowest pace among the wealthy nations of the OECD grouping.