The number of cases in New Zealand fell to 19 on Wednesday, following a record high the day before, with the majority of infections still occuring in Auckland as the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to affect the country’s largest city.
On Tuesday, authorities reported 60 new COVID-19 infections, 56 of which occurred in Auckland, bringing the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 2,158. Since the pandemic began, 28 people have died, and 43 people are currently hospitalised as a result of the virus.
New Zealand had stayed largely virus-free for most of the pandemic until the Delta outbreak in mid-August that has spread across Auckland and neighbouring regions, prompting tight restrictions on some 1.7 million Aucklanders that were extended further this week.
Authorities have warned that infections are likely to trend higher until vaccination rates gather more pace. Some 67% of the population is now fully vaccinated, while 85% have received at least one dose.
Auckland has now been locked down for more than two months, though New Zealand’s total cumulative load of 4,854 confirmed cases is far lower than many comparable countries.
The government has shifted to a strategy of living with COVID-19, and education minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday said senior secondary school students in some areas would return to classrooms from next Tuesday.
“This is a complex issue requiring difficult trade-offs between improving education and increasing potential health risks for children and young people,” Hipkins said at a news conference.