New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern | Covid-19 testing station in Wellington Photograph:( AFP )
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern had ordered a nationwide lockdown earlier this week after a single case of suspected Delta virus case. The lockdown was later extended as virus cases escalated.
New Zealand reported 21 new coronavirus cases just days after it imposed a lockdown putting its "Covid zero" strategy in doubt.
Auckland reported 20 cases with at least 5 people hospitalised as the lockdown was extended until midnight set to last till next Tuesday.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern had imposed the lockdown after a single case of suspected Delta variant was detected earlier in the week.
New Zealand had reported a virus case for the first time six months before this week's outbreak.
COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins conceded that despite "best preparations in the world" the virus had put the health system under strain.
Hipkins informed that about a million people have been fully vaccinated amid a slow vaccination rollout. Reports say only 20 per cent of the population has been fully inoculated as the opposition criticised the government's vaccine strategy.
The COVID-19 response minister said there were 72 active Delta cases with 66 in Auckland. Reports say health teams are currently checking the status of almost 9,000 close contacts of those who were infected with the virus earlier.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had maintained there was a need to remain "cautious" since the full scale of the Delta outbreak hadn't been ascertained.
The prime minister asserted that all the cases, including those in Wellington were linked. Ardern had said earlier that the "elimination strategy works" while vowing to stamp out the virus.
"Cases rise and then they fall until we have none. It's tried and true...we just need to stick it out," Ardern had asserted.
New Zealand has reported just 26 deaths and 2,660 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began last year and has been widely appreciated for its Covid response, however, the recent outbreak has surprised many and led to worries among ministers and health officials.
(With inputs from Agencies)