New Zealand authorities reported 62 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases Wednesday — the highest number in a single day since last year as the country wrestles with a growing outbreak driven by the more contagious Delta variant.
Last week New Zealand confirmed its first community Covid-19 cases since February, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce the whole country would enter into a strict lockdown.
In just over a week, that single case has grown to a cluster of 210, with 198 cases in the country’s most populous city, Auckland, Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said Wednesday. Bloomfield said 11 people from the current outbreak were in hospital with Covid-19, although none are in intensive care.
Wednesday’s tally is the highest number of infections reported in a single day this year — at the peak of New Zealand’s outbreak last year, the country reported a record daily high of 89 new cases.
New Zealand is trying to avoid the kind of outbreak occurring in neighboring Australia, where cases have spiraled out of control in recent weeks.
The Australian state of New South Wales — which is currently reporting the majority of the country’s cases — recorded its worst day of the pandemic Wednesday with 919 new cases and two deaths overnight, according to the state’s Health Department.
Like Australia, New Zealand has been slow to vaccinate. In New Zealand, less than 20% of the population is fully vaccinated according to data collated by a source– in Australia, about 24% of the population are now fully immunized.
Although New Zealand’s cases are increasing, Bloomfield said the lockdown meant infections were growing steadily, not exponentially. New Zealand is under level 4 lockdown — its strictest measure — meaning people can only leave the house to shop for groceries, access necessary healthcare, get a Covid-19 vaccination or test, exercise in their local area, or go to work if they are an essential worker.
“It’s not unexpected to see a rise in daily case numbers at this stage,” the Ministry of Health said in a media release Wednesday.
The country is also combining its tough lockdown with contact tracing and testing. More than 20,000 individual contacts of Covid-19 cases have been identified and 62% of them have been tested, according to the Health Ministry. There are now 480 locations of interests — or places that are connected with Covid-19 cases.
For months, New Zealand has kept the virus at bay with tough entry rules, allowing life to continue almost as normal within its borders. Almost all foreigners are banned from the country, and almost all incoming travelers must spend two weeks in a managed isolation facility at their own cost.
New Zealand has confirmed more than 3,100 Covid-19 cases and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.