Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has lengthened New Zealand’s lockdown after reporting 70 new COVID-19 cases.
After a cabinet review on Friday, Ms Ardern announced tweaks and extensions to the country’s lockdowns.
Auckland and Northland are likely to stay in level four lockdown – the country’s harshest restrictions – for at least another fortnight through to September 15.
The rest of New Zealand – including Wellington, which has yielded 14 cases, and the South Island, which has zero – will move to a lesser level three lockdown from September 1.
The decisions will be ratified at another cabinet meeting on Monday.
“We are doing really well. And we have evidence that what we are doing is working. But caution is still required,” Ms Ardern said.
“By far the most effective tool we have right now is level four.”
The level three settings allow retail to operate with click and collect, and for restaurants and cafes to open for contactless takeaways.
It does not allow for social gatherings outside of household “bubbles”.
While the 70 new cases announced on Friday is a new high for this outbreak – and nears the 89 cases last April on NZ’s worst day of the pandemic – it is only a small bump from Thursday’s 68 cases.
“We may be seeing the beginning of a plateau of cases,” Ms Ardern said.
Ms Ardern had previously advised she expected case numbers to peak after “eight to 10” days of lockdown.
All of Friday’s cases were found in Auckland.
The outbreak totals 347 cases, including 333 in Auckland and the rest in Wellington.
Of those infected, 19 are receiving hospital care in Auckland, including one in intensive care who is in a stable condition.
The outbreak continues to disproportionately effect NZ’s Pacific communities: 44 of 70 cases announced on Friday were of Pacific background.
The largest cluster, traced back to the Samoan Assembly of God church in the Auckland suburb of Mangere, has 146 confirmed cases.
New Zealanders continue to roll up their sleeves in response to the outbreak, setting another daily record for vaccinations.
On Thursday, 90,757 doses of Pfizer were administered across the country.