The election was set for September 19 but is now set for October 17. Opposition parties had requested a pause after last week’s virus outbreak forced the government to put Auckland under a two-week lockout and suspend campaigning for elections. New Zealand had gone 102 days before the new outbreak without any known population transmission of the virus, and for most people life had returned to normal, with restaurants and schools open and sports fans back in the stadiums. At that time, the only known cases were travelers returning, who were quarantined at the border.
Officials suspect the virus was reintroduced from abroad to New Zealand but have not yet decided how it will be. The epidemic of Auckland has risen to 49 infections, all believed to be related, giving health authorities confidence that the virus will not spread outside the cluster. Ardern also announced that it would call lawmakers back to parliament, which had finished sitting ahead of the election. Now the parliament will continue to run until early September.
The delay will cause logistical problems, including rebooking polling places and making sure the thousands of election workers required for the vote are available on the new date. Ardern said she felt there was ample time to arrange it all. Opinion polls suggests that the moderate Labor Party of Ardern is favoured to secure a second term in office. The reputation of the party has skyrocketed dramatically since the pandemic, with Ardern earning international recognition for how she addressed the crisis.