The New Zealand government said on Tuesday that new COVID-19 cases declined for a second day, to 49, despite the country’s tight lockdown during the latest epidemic this month.
Except for a few instances in February, New Zealand had been mostly coronavirus-free for months until an epidemic of the Delta variety imported from Australia forced Ardern to declare a statewide lockdown on Aug. 17.
The overall number of cases in the outbreak is 612, with 597 in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and 15 in Wellington, the country’s capital.
The declining number of daily cases signals that the social restrictions are reducing the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference.
“We have a second day where our numbers have declined. We want the tail of this outbreak to be as short as possible,” Ardern said.
Around 1.7 million Aucklanders will remain in strict level 4 lockdown for another two weeks, while restrictions for the remainder of the country will ease slightly from Wednesday.
Police placed checkpoints at the outskirts of Auckland to ensure no non-essential movement was allowed into the city.
Police also said they had arrested 19 people on Tuesday following anti-lockdown protest around the country.
There are now 33 people in hospitals from the latest Delta outbreak, the Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said, with eight cases in stable condition in intensive care.
“It is sobering to see six cases in the outbreak are under the age of one,” he said
But he added that the public health measures in place were slowing the spread of the virus and cases will continue to decline.
Ardern’s lockdowns, along with closing the international border from March 2020, were credited with reining in COVID-19.
However, the government now faces questions over a delayed vaccine rollout, as well as rising costs in a country heavily reliant on an immigrant workforce.
Just over a quarter of the population has been fully vaccinated so far, the slowest pace among the wealthy nations of the OECD grouping.