New Zealand reports record daily cases as Delta spreads

New Zealand recorded on Tuesday the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began last year, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads in its biggest city Auckland.

The South Pacific nation reported 94 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, of which 87 were in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 2,099. There have been 28 deaths in total due to COVID-19 and 38 people are hospitalised over the virus.

Once the poster child for stamping out COVID-19, New Zealand has been fighting a Delta outbreak that has spread across Auckland and its neighbouring regions despite tough lockdown and border closures.

About 1.7 million Aucklanders still face tight restrictions under a lockdown, though this has not stopped the surge of the virus. The lockdown in Auckland was extended by two weeks on Monday.

Authorities have blamed rule-breakers and unvaccinated people for the rise in cases.

"The rules matter for everyone and the ask of testing if you are symptomatic applies to everyone," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"We need everyone who can be, to be vaccinated ... we all have a part to play," she said.

New Zealand had stayed largely virus-free for most of the pandemic until the Delta outbreak in mid-August. The government now aims to have the country live with COVID-19 through higher inoculations. Nearly 67% of the population is now fully vaccinated. read more