New Zealand delays election as COVID-19 cases resurface in Auckland

New Zealand delays election as COVID-19 cases resurface in Auckland

Auckland (Web Desk): New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday postponed the looming election in the country by four weeks to October 17.

The virus was first detected in four family members in Auckland early last week and by Monday the cluster had grown to 58 confirmed cases, with five people in hospital.

Ardern said the return of the virus after 102 days without community transmission had rattled Kiwis and could have discouraged some from casting ballots in a September election.

The centre-left leader, who is riding high in opinion polls, also acknowledged concerns from rivals that curbs on campaigning would unfairly weigh the election in favour of her government.

After spending the weekend consulting party leaders and the Electoral Commission, she chose October 17, the earliest delayed date available to her.

Ardern said the change meant all parties would be campaigning under the same conditions and she would not move the election´s timing again regardless of the situation.

"I have absolutely no intention at all to change from this point," she said.

"This decision gives all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Electoral Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead."

All parties temporarily suspended campaigning in the wake of last week's outbreak, the source of which remains unknown.