New Zealand: Why one of the world's Covid success stories is seeing a surge in cases

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Credit: AP

New Zealand has recorded its highest number of new Covid cases since the start of the pandemic, after an outbreak in Auckland - the country's largest city.

What are the latest numbers?

Compared to the daily case rises we're seeing in the UK, New Zealand's numbers are still tiny.

There have been 94 new local infections - more than the 89 cases which health officials twice recorded near the start of the pandemic.

Most of the new cases were in Auckland, but seven were found in the nearby Waikato district.

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Why are cases rising?

Auckland has been under a two-month lockdown.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said lockdown rule-breakers were partly to blame for the rise in infections. She also said many of the new cases have been among younger people.

Ms Ardern, who has been prime minister since 2017, urged people to be more responsible.

“I know the highs and lows of cases is incredibly hard on people, particularly those in Tamaki Makaurau,” Ms Ardern said, using the indigenous Maori name for Auckland.

“I just wanted to reinforce again that we’re not powerless.

“We do have the ability to keep cases as low as we can.”

What's being done about it?

New Zealand's prime minister and many health officials in the country see vaccination as the path out of Covid and the rise in cases.

A vaccine festival was held on Saturday and shown on national television. 130,000 people were jabbed at the Vaxathon event - more than 2% of the country's population.

People with weakened immune systems can now get a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine in the country too.

Jacinda Ardern said that people have the power to keep cases lower Credit: Mark Mitchell/PA

New Zealand successfully tackled earlier Covid outbreaks with tough border controls and strict lockdowns.

Contract tracing and strict isolation measures for infectious people were also key to the country's Covid success.

But these methods weren't as effective against the more transmissible Delta variant.

The government announced on Monday that lockdown would be extended for two weeks.

But some of Auckland’s lockdown rules have been eased, allowing more people to return to work.

People with weakened immune systems in New Zealand can now get a third shot of the Pfizer jab

How can New Zealand beat Covid?

New Zealand's prime minister Ardern said a path out of lockdown would be based on vaccination numbers.

64% of the population eligible for a vaccine in New Zealand (those aged 12 and over) have had both Covid jabs. This amounts to 55% of the full population.

The government wants to get 90% of people aged 12 and over fully vaccinated.

New Zealand's Maori communities have been hard hit by the pandemic, but vaccination rates among Maori people remain low.

Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago, said he fears that contact tracers in Auckland will soon be overwhelmed.

He said politicians needed to consider temporarily re-imposing strict lockdown measures and border controls around the city.

Professor Baker said the most important consideration in the path out of lockdown is to make sure the health system is not overwhelmed:

“There are burning embers all over the city.

“They have lifted the wet blanket of the strong lockdown, and people are getting lockdown fatigue.”