New Zealand extended its pandemic lockdown until late August, while the governing body of the nation’s rugby union teams called off several upcoming matches at home and in Australia.
The national lockdown has been extended until at least August 24, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
New Zealand this week reported its first Covid-19 cases in months, which had been linked to a traveller from Sydney. That is believed to have kicked off a cluster of Delta variant infections in Auckland, but is also what prompted the snap decision to place the country under toughest lockdown conditions.
Ardern said officials were unsure of the extent of the outbreak, but acknowledged it had spread beyond the city, including Wellington, the capital.
On Friday, New Zealand reported a further 11 cases over the past day, which pushed the number of cases linked to the Auckland cluster to 31.
Auckland had been due to exit its lockdown on August 24, but is likely to remain under restrictions for longer. National cabinet will meet again on Monday to decide whether an extension is required.
The restrictions have had an impact on major sporting fixtures. New Zealand Rugby Union said several test matches pitting New Zealand’s top men’s and women’s teams against sides from South Africa and Australia in late September and early October “will not be played in New Zealand”.
The decision, NZR said, followed advice from the government that the Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, and the Wallaroos, Australia’s women’s national rugby team, “would not be able to enter New Zealand to play matches due to Covid-19 restrictions”.
NZR has decided against sending the All Blacks to Perth this weekend in preparation for the third in an annual series of grudge matches against Australia’s Wallabies.