New Zealand has placed a number of communities under stricter monitoring amid the uptick in COVID-19 cases.
With 33 new infections recorded in Auckland and the nearby Waikato region on Sunday, additional areas must now follow more stringent protocols for at least five days. These communities include Hamilton and Raglan in Waikato, where residents are allowed to leave home only for essential business.
Waikato is now under Alert Level 3, as there is “medium risk of community transmission” and “active but managed clusters”, according to official guidelines.
“At Alert Level 3, travel is restricted and only allowed for permitted movement in your local area -- for example, going to work or school if you need to, shopping or getting exercise. Some business travel is permitted,” the government advised.
“Personal movement within Alert Level 3 is limited, except for the permitted reasons. If you are leaving home for a permitted reason, you do not need any other form of approval. You should carry some evidence of your reason to leave your home, for example proof of address for both households if you are maintaining a shared childcare arrangement.”
‘Vaccination makes a difference’
Meanwhile, Auckland continues to struggle with an outbreak of the Delta variant emerging in the past two months. The city has a case count of more than 1,300.
Before the outbreak, however, New Zealand had seen zero cases for six months and had been widely commended for its handling of the first wave of infections.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said stricter measures in Auckland and Waikato could have been avoided if the country had registered a higher vaccination rate.
“Vaccination makes a difference. It keeps people safe. It also gives us choices,” Ardern said. “Instead, we would be able to rely on other tools, like contact tracing, and much lower level public health measures.
“While we are still vaccinating, we have fewer choices in how we react.”
At the moment, less than half of the country’s eligible population have been fully immunised against COVID-19.
Tighter travel restrictions
From 1 November, New Zealand will also start enforcing more stringent health requirements, such as full vaccination, for travellers to the country.
“To further reduce the possibility of the virus getting through our border, we are introducing the requirement for air travellers aged 17 and over, who are not New Zealand citizens, to be fully vaccinated to enter New Zealand,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced.
“Most people coming to New Zealand tell us they are already vaccinated. This requirement makes it formal and will provide an extra layer of protection at the border,” he said.