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Auckland COVID cases drop again as New Zealand presses on with Delta curbs

WELLINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - New Zealand reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, all in locked down Auckland, its biggest city, as the country looks to limit the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The latest daily number was down from the 13 infections recorded on Thursday and the lowest any day this week, taking the total number of infections from the current outbreak, which started in mid-August, to 879.

The government will decide on Monday whether the tight lockdown in Auckland would be eased or extended.

“I absolutely understand people in Auckland wanting to see the alert levels come down. They have been doing it tough,” Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said at a news conference.

“But the thing that has served us well is being careful and also making sure when we do a job we do it once and we do it right.”

About 1.7 million people living in Auckland remain in a strict level 4 lockdown, while curbs were eased in the rest of the country earlier this week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s lockdowns and international border closure since March 2020 have been credited with reining in COVID-19, largely freeing up day-to-day activities for New Zealanders.

There have been just 3,510 cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand since the pandemic began, and 27 related deaths.

But Ardern has been criticised for a slow vaccination programme as the country battled the latest Delta variant outbreak.

New Zealand purchased about a quarter of a million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from Spain this week to boost the country’s inoculation programme. (Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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