Delta outbreak: Jacinda Ardern says patterns behind new COVID-19 case numbers show lockdown is working and elimination is the right strategy

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says most of the cases in the Delta outbreak are being spread among households, which shows the lockdown is working. 

New Zealand entered alert level four lockdown on Tuesday, August 17 at 11:59pm after one community case was recorded. Since then the cases have continued to grow and now sit at 277 after 68 new cases were recorded on Thursday. 

At the 1pm stand up, the Prime Minister said despite the high number of cases, there is good news.

"With Delta these numbers are not necessarily unexpected. It's more infectious and we know it moves faster so even though we moved into lockdown quickly once we discovered it we should expect the impact of it being in our community for roughly a week or more prior for a time to come."

But Ardern said the majority of spread is happening within households which shows lockdown is having an impact. 

"Of the more than 60 cases that were logged yesterday I'm advised across all those cases there were only three new exposure events… that tells us something really important - that people are following level four and that we are beginning to reach people who have been infected since lockdown began. 

"We also know that 37 of the cases were from within households that already had a case… also of those 60 plus cases our health officials have linked the majority, 16 remain under investigation. 

"While we have had a number of new cases today that gives you a bit of a sense of the patterns we are starting to see and that lockdown is having an impact."

She said the numbers suggest New Zealand is reaching the peak of the outbreak and case numbers will likely begin to drop. 

The Prime Minister also addressed criticism of New Zealand's COVID-19 response from overseas. On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested taking an elimination response, like New Zealand, was "absurd" for the Delta variant. 

Ardern pushed back on that at the stand up, telling reporters the Government is following experts' advice. 

"Right now experts are telling us to take on Delta differently but they've also told us to stick with the elimination strategy for now. In their view it is not only possible, it remains the best strategy and I totally agree. 

"Elimination means continuing to stamp out COVID wherever it emerges and all the while ramping up our vaccine program… vaccination provides everyone with their own individual armour."

She said before vaccines were available, we relied on the borders for protection and using lockdowns to get outbreaks under control. Eventually the goal is to move away from having to use these measures but for now elimination is still the best approach. 

"No one wants to use lockdowns forever and I can tell you now that is not our intention. We have new tools for managing COVID and we will use them but for now while we vaccinate - elimination is the goal, and we can do it."