New Zealand postpones election due to coronavirus outbreak
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday postponed elections for about four weeks because of a cluster of new coronavirus cases in Auckland, a major city on the north island of the country.
The announcement comes after the government earlier this month placed Auckland under a two-week lockdown and stopped in-person campaigning because of an outbreak, The Associated Press reported. The election, originally scheduled for Sept. 19, will now take place on Oct. 17.
“Ultimately I want to ensure we have a well-run election that gives all voters the best chance to receive all the information they need about parties and candidates, and delivers certainty for the future,” Ardern said.
Ardern added that she would only delay the election once, regardless of how the virus is impacting the country in the fall. She said “COVID is continuing to disrupt life around the world” and noted countries including South Korea and Singapore held elections amid the health crisis.
Ahead of the outbreak in Auckland, New Zealand, a small island nation of approximately 5 million people, had gone 102 consecutive days without reporting a case of the coronavirus caused by local transmission.
Ardern in June lifted the majority of economic and social restrictions imposed at the outset of the pandemic, which allowed for the reopening of restaurants and the resumption of sporting events and concerts. The decision came after health officials expressed confidence that they had eliminated community transmission.
Officials say the coronavirus likely spread from someone who entered New Zealand from abroad, the AP noted. However, it is still unclear how the recent outbreak started.
“We still don’t have any particular clues as to the origin of the outbreak,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said, according to The Guardian.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health on Monday reported 78 confirmed active cases of COVID-19, including 58 from the community outbreak in Auckland. Twenty cases are imported cases and being managed in quarantine, the health ministry said.