Genome sequencing shows Australia link as country begins snap lockdown to stamp out outbreak.
New Zealand has recorded 41 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of infections in the country to 148, the Director-General of Health Chief Ashley Bloomfield said as she declared that containing the spread of the Delta variant is “like dealing with a whole new virus”.
Of the new cases, 38 are in Auckland and three in the capital Wellington, Bloomfield said at a news conference on Tuesday.
The youngest case is reportedly an infant.
The majority of confirmed cases in the outbreak are of Samoan ethnicity linked to the Samoan Assembly Of God Church.
According to reports, there are 58 confirmed cases linked to the church. This included both people at the service and household close contacts.
Bloomfield was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper as saying that he had spoken with Australia’s Department of Health Secretary Professor Dr Brendan Murphy on Monday about the nature of the Delta variant.
He agreed with Murphy that “combating Delta in the community is like dealing with a whole new virus”.
“That is our experience in New Zealand, too. Delta is unlike our previous experience, it is, as we know, highly infectious and transmissible, and as we have seen, spreads rapidly.”
According to reports, genome sequencing conducted on the first case reported in Auckland was linked to a traveller, who had returned from Sydney, Australia.
On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had ordered the extension of the country’s lockdown until Friday, when it will be revisited based depending on the emergence of new cases.
Ardern, however, said that the stay-at-home orders in Auckland will remain in place at least until August 31.
“We are still very much in the thick of this outbreak,” said Ardern on Monday.
“We don’t yet believe we’ve reached the peak of this outbreak or necessarily the edges of it,” she said in a news conference.
New Zealand’s vaccination programme has been slower than many other developed nations despite a recent acceleration. About 32 percent of people have had at least one dose of the vaccine while 18 percent are fully vaccinated.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the government has enough funds to tackle the latest outbreak and the economy has been “incredibly resilient”.
“A strong public health response is still the best economic response,” he said on Monday.