New Zealand's Ardern postpones election as coronavirus flares up


New Zealand's prime minister has postponed the general election by a month as Auckland remains in lockdown due to a growing coronavirus outbreak.

Jacinda Ardern bowed to pressure to delay the polls after some parties complained they could not campaign with nearly a third of New Zealand's 5 million people under lockdown in Auckland.

"Ultimately, the 17th of October... provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we will be campaigning under," Ardern said at a news conference.

She ruled out delaying the polls any further, as her Labour Party maintains a strong lead over the conservative National Party in opinion polls.

"We are all in the same boat. We are all campaigning in the same environment," Ardern said.

New Zealand on Monday recorded nine new cases of COVID-19, taking the number of active cases to 78. There have now been a total of 1,280 cases in the country, and 22 deaths.

An earlier election would have worked in Ardern's favour, as her success in stifling COVID-19 and keeping the country virus-free for 102 days until the latest outbreak had boosted her popularity.

The election was scheduled for September 19 and New Zealand law requires it to be held by November 21. Advance voting will now start on October 3.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who had called for a delay, said "common sense has prevailed".

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