NZ reports 27 COVID cases amid anti-lockdown protests

New Zealand reported 27 new cases of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant in Auckland on Saturday (October 2),

As protestors took to the streets to rally against an almost two-month lockdown in the country's biggest city.

Auckland is home to 1.7 million residents.

They're expecting a government decision on Monday about whether the city will remain sealed off from the rest of New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern enforced what was meant to be a "short and sharp" nationwide lockdown in mid-August in response to the Auckland outbreak.

But while the rest of the country has largely returned to normal life, the North Island city has remained in lockdown for about seven weeks.

Here are some of the protesters:

"Our freedom to choose, our choice has been taken from us. That's not acceptable. That's wrong."

"I don't want to live in a country that's subverted by fear and that's what appears to be happening."

"I'm not going to go and jeopardise my health, you know, I don't care what anyone thinks about vaccines. If you want to go and get it, get it, but don't force me."

Around 1,000 people rallied in the city demanding "freedom from lockdown," according to local media.

The protest was organised by Destiny Church, a Pentecostal fundamentalist Christian movement.

Brian Tamiki is the group's leader.

"Like a lot of Kiwi's right now I just feel that it's gone too far with the lockdowns and the levels and constantly being put into these positions means that our jobs, our livelihoods, our businesses and also the mental health of people, it's becoming, it's becoming quite evident now that it's really at breaking point."

New Zealand was among a handful of countries to bring COVID-19 cases down to zero last year and largely stayed virus-free until the latest outbreak in August.

But difficulties in quashing the Delta variant have put Ardern's elimination strategy in question.

Ardern has said her strategy was never to have zero cases, but to aggressively stamp out the virus.

She has said strict lockdowns can end if 90% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

The number currently stands at 46%.

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