New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the country will be delaying the national elections by four weeks as it faces a new wave of coronavirus infections in its most populous city, Auckland.
The election, which was originally scheduled for September 19, will now be held four weeks later on October 17. Under the country’s law, Ardern has the option to delay the election by up to two months.
Ardern has attained international praise and surging popularity among New Zealanders for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The regulations invoked by Ardern have been among the world’s harshest, but the result is that the island nation has seen some of the lowest numbers of infections and less than two dozen deaths in total.
New Zealand’s opposition parties requested a delay after the outbreak prompted the government to put the city into a two-week period of extended lockdown. Election campaigning was also halted.
Before the latest outbreak of infections in Auckland, New Zealand went 102 days without any known community transmission of the coronavirus, prompting the government to lift lockdown restrictions by reopening restaurants, sports stadiums, and schools. The Associated Press reports that the only known cases at the time were from returning travelers who were quarantined at the border.
Officials suspect that the coronavirus was reintroduced to the population from abroad but are still trying to identify the source. The current outbreak has grown to 49 infections, and authorities believe they are all connected. Authorities hope that the virus does not spread beyond the infection cluster.
Ardern said she spoke to leaders of all the political parties before making her decision.
“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, per AP.
The Prime Minister says that she has no intention of delaying the election again even if there are more infections.
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