New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the country’s election would be delayed by one month following the appearance of a new cluster of coronavirus cases.
The island nation recorded 102 days without a single instance of community transmission of coronavirus, until the discovery of a cluster of 78 cases in the city of Auckland. Auckland has been placed in a lockdown with less-severe restrictions than at the outbreak of the pandemic.
The city contains almost one third of New Zealand’s voters, and a party in Ardern’s coalition pressured to delay the national elections because of restrictions on the ability to campaign to Auckland residents.
“I absolutely have confidence we can and will deliver a safe election,” Ardern said at a press conference. The election will be delayed until October 17, which Ardern said “provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under.”
New Zealand implemented some of the strictest lockdowns anywhere in the world at the outset of the pandemic, allowing only citizens and legal residents to reenter the country. Prime Minister Ardern’s popularity has soared amid the pandemic, along with the popularity of Ardern’s Labour party. Meanwhile, the absence of any coronavirus cases for the past three months has allowed New Zealanders to live almost as normal.
“For much of Jacinda Ardern’s time as prime minister, there has been something of a disconnect between her popularity and reputation internationally and domestically,” Bryce Edwards, political analyst in residence at Victoria University of Wellington, told the Washington Post. “Since the covid-19 crisis, everything has changed. The popularity of the government and prime minister has surged to historic highs. It is like nothing I’ve ever seen.”