New Zealand Grapples with COVID Outbreak, Terrorist Stabbing

Delta outbreak in country’s largest city . . . 

New Zealand’s latest COVID-19 outbreak, which began with the identification of a single case on August 17, has expanded to 868 cases – all but a handful of which are in Auckland, the country’s largest city. Nearly half of the cases are linked to a large religious event in South Auckland featuring multiple church groups. Daily case counts have declined in recent days, from a high of 84 on August 28 and September 2, to only 13 cases reported on September 9. The Auckland region remains in Level-4 lockdown, the highest level, with other parts of the country under Level-2 restrictions. About 32 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, about 30.5 per cent has received only one dose, while about 37.5 per cent remains unvaccinated.

Terrorist was under surveillance . . .

Meanwhile, New Zealand has been dealing with a separate crisis: on September 3, a man under active surveillance by police for actively supporting ISIS went on a stabbing spree at a supermarket in Auckland. He injured seven people, three of them critically, before being fatally shot by police about a minute after the attack began. The perpetrator was a Sri Lankan national who arrived in New Zealand in 2011 on a student visa and became known to police in 2016 for posting support for terrorist activities on social media. He had been arrested several times, including for allegedly attempting to travel to Syria, and spent time in prison. Police placed him under surveillance when he was released from prison this July.

COVID re-opening derailed? New anti-terror laws?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern insists the COVID-19 outbreak will not derail New Zealand’s re-opening plan, although her assertion conflicts with statements made by the country’s COVID-19 minister earlier in the week, which suggested re-opening plans would need to be re-evaluated. Expert opinion has urged caution and the need to re-evaluate re-opening plans considering the outbreak. The country’s Ministry of Health also indicated that the country would make vaccine passports available later this year. Following the stabbings, PM Arden said her government would introduce amendments to the country’s anti-terror legislation to make it easier for police to convict someone of planning a terror attack. She expects the updates to pass by the end of the month.