New Zealand coronavirus lockdown has been extended after an additional 11 cases were announced on Friday, bringing the country’s current cluster to 31.
The nationwide alert level four lockdown was meant to end on Friday, but will now continue until at least midnight Tuesday.
Of the new cases, eight were in Auckland and three were in Wellington.
“Going to Tuesday is a full seven days from our first case returning a positive result, and gives us that extra time we believe we need,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
“It may pop up in other parts of the country in the coming days; the last thing we want is to further spread the virus in the coming days as that will only extend the lockdown.”
Ms Ardern confirmed earlier this week the Delta variant had entered the country via a passenger who recently returned from Sydney.
“I can now report, from the whole genome sequence analysis, that our current positive cases are a close match to a recent returnee from Sydney, who arrived on a managed red zone flight on August 7, had a day one test on the 8th, returning a positive test result on the 9th,” she said.
“Our cases are most likely to have come from the traveller. This is a significant development.”
Investigations are now underway to determine how the virus spread from someone inside the hotel quarantine system.
Asked what her message was to “people who questioned the need” for such a harsh lockdown, Ms Ardern pointed to “Australia”.
“We’ve seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries, not least our neighbours,” she said.
“We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance.”
Under the alert level four restrictions, all non-essential businesses must close, all gatherings are cancelled and all public venues are closed.
Residents must stay within their household bubbles, unless for essential personal movement, and all educational facilities are closed.