Virus forces New Zealand election delay

A 2nd wave of infections is also threatening disruption in Europe where summer holidaymakers are helping fuel a resurgence of Covid-19

WELLINGTON • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday postponed the nation’s election to focus on fighting a coronavirus second wave, as data showed Japan’s economy had endured a historic contraction.

With more than 21.5 million cases worldwide, a second wave of infections is also threatening further disruption in Europe where summer holidaymakers are helping fuel a resurgence of Covid-19.

The disease has killed more than 766,000 people globally, and the number of deaths hit 50,000 in India — which is still battling its first wave with 2.5 million infections — the third-highest in the world.

The postponement of New Zea- land’s election to Oct 17 came after the shock discovery of Covid-19 in Auckland last week, ending the nation’s 102-day streak without community transmission.

“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,” Ardern said.

She said the return of the virus — which sent New Zealand’s largest city into lockdown — had rattled Kiwis and could have discouraged some from voting in a September election.

In South Korea, another country that had brought its initial outbreak largely under control, thousands of Protestant church members were asked to quarantine as authorities battled virus clusters linked to religious groups.

The largest of those current clus- ters is centred on the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, headed by contro- versial conservative pastor Jun Kwang-hun.

South Korean authorities have filed two separate complaints against him for deliberately hinde- ring efforts to contain the virus.

Across the Pacific, less than three months out from the American pres- idential election, the surging case- load in the US — the worst in the world at more than 5.4 million with 170,000 deaths (at press time) — has forced the convention season online.

The Democrats’ disparate fac- tions are projecting a united front behind Joe Biden as their four-day virtual gathering gets under way yesterday, as they seek to oust President Donald Trump who has been widely criticised for his handling of the pandemic.

The Trump administration and Congress are under increasing pressure to ease the economic pain unleashed by the virus, with tens of millions left jobless and the global economy facing a historic downturn.

Many countries have plunged into recession since the coronavirus first emerged in China late last year.

The latest evidence of the eco- nomic destruction emerged in Japan, which saw its economy shrink a record 7.8% in the April-June quar- ter, the worst contraction in the nation’s modern history. — AFP