World

New cases still growing in NZ, throwing election into question

MELBOURNE: A new outbreak in New Zealand is still growing, health officials said yesterday, with the country that had an early triumph over the pandemic recording 13 new cases and putting next month's general election in question.

After stifling the virus earlier this year before it became a public health crisis and after 102 days without new infections, an abrupt resurgence last week in Auckland prompted an immediate lockdown of the country's largest city.

Yesterday's numbers bring New Zealand's total active cases to 69, providing more ammunition to a conservative opposition that wants to delay a Sept 19 general election, which opinion polls show Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party winning.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters called yesterday for a delay.

Mr Peters, who delivered government to Ms Ardern's Labour party through a coalition deal after a 2017 election failed to result in a majority for the National or Labour parties, suggested Oct 17 and Nov 21 as alternative dates.

Ms Ardern is expected to resist a delay but has said she will decide by today.

STRUGGLING

In neighbouring Australia, which has also been struggling with a resurgence of the coronavirus in two of its largest states, New South Wales and Victoria, there were signs of a further downward trend.

New South Wales reported just five new cases, while Victoria, where masks became compulsory last month after the state became the centre of the country's largest outbreak, reported 279 new cases yesterday, along with 16 more deaths.

The daily number of new cases this week has been well below the peak of 725 on Aug 5.

Melbourne, the state's capital, remains under a strict lockdown. - REUTERS

WORLD