Lockdown in New Zealand's largest city to continue for 12 more days
New Zealand's largest city Auckland will remain in COVID-19 Alert Level 3 for 12 more days, with the rest of the country staying in Alert Level 2, as there are currently 36 active cases, 17 of which are linked to the recent community transmission in Auckland.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference on Friday the cabinet had unanimously decided to maintain the current alert levels until Aug. 26. The government will review situation and make further decisions on Aug. 21.
"There is nothing to suggest we need to move to a level 4 lockdown at this stage," she said, referring to a stricter lockdown.
This has been the second time New Zealand went into lockdowns, with the previous level 4 lockdown imposed between late March and late April, followed by the previous level 3 lockdown between late April and June 8 when New Zealand declared an initial success of the COVID-19 battle.
Ardern said construction and hospitality services would continue under the Alert Level 3 lockdown, with other restrictions such as no dining out except contactless deliveries or picking up orders.
Under level 3, businesses are required to implement COVID-19 safety measures, and most people are encouraged to work from home and school children learn from home.
"Cabinet also does not want Auckland to be in level 3 any longer than is needed to ensure the outbreak is contained," Ardern said.
Currently, 15 of the 17 community transmission cases are from Auckland, with two confirmed cases from the nearby Waikato region. Therefore, Auckland remains in Alert Level 3 for about two more weeks, with the other part of the country staying in level 2, which relaxes some gathering rules such as allowing less than 100 attendees of weddings or funerals and permitting dine-in.
Meanwhile, the government will protect jobs and businesses with extra support.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said at the press conference the cabinet has made an in-principle decision to extend the wage subsidy, and modify the COVID-19 Sick Leave Scheme to make it more accessible, which is to be announced on Monday.
"The latest COVID-19 outbreak is obviously disappointing, especially for businesses that have just got up and running again. But we have a plan in place to deal with it. We have always said that the best economic response is a strong health response," Robertson said.
The minister said the government has decided that the extended wage subsidy will apply nationwide, particularly given the significance of Auckland's economy to the wider country, and due to the impact Alert Level 2 would have on sectors like hospitality and retail.