The announcement comes as New Zealand battles an outbreak of the highly transmissible delta variant in its largest city, Auckland.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that Auckland would stay in lockdown for at least another week, while the nearby regions of Waikato and Northland could come out of lockdown on Thursday if no significant spread of the virus was found in those places.
Auckland has been in lockdown for nearly two months, since the outbreak was discovered. Thirty-five new local cases were found in the city on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the outbreak to a little over 1,600.
Last week Ardern acknowledged that the virus was in New Zealand to stay, and it would not be completely wiped out by measures including lockdowns and contact tracing, which had succeeded in eliminating previous outbreaks.
Ardern has been urging people to get vaccinated as a step toward the nation reopening.
This coming weekend, the government is planning a “Super Saturday” vaccination drive that it likens to an Election Day, when vaccination centers will be open throughout the day and into the evening.
About 68 per cent of New Zealanders have had at least one dose of the vaccine and 47 per cent are fully vaccinated. Among those aged 12 and over, the figures rise to 82 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.
The government on Monday also announced an advanced purchase agreement for 60,000 courses of an experimental new pill by drug maker Merck, pending approval by New Zealand regulators.
The pill, molnupiravir, would be the first shown to treat COVID-19, if it’s approved by regulators including the US Food and Drug Administration.