AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Racing in the America’s Cup challenger series will be delayed by at least a day after a community outbreak of COVID-19 Sunday forced Auckland city into limited lockdown.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland will move into Level 3 lockdown after three community cases were detected in a southern suburb, the first since August in New Zealand’s largest city.
The lockdown means schools and public venues including the America’s Cup village will be closed and residents are advised to work from home and “act with a high degree of caution.”
Crowds at sports events will not be allowed, at least for 72 hours. Ardern said of planned public gatherings “if you can, postponement is the best thing at this point.”
Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli leads Britain’s INEOS Team UK 4-0 in the first-to-seven-win Prada Cup final series, after winning both races on the second day of the series Sunday. Racing was due to continue on Wednesday but America’s Cup organizers have announced a postponement will be necessary.
In a statement Sunday organizers said because of the lockdown announcement “initially for 72 hours, the next scheduled race day has been postponed and the event will not be open to the public during this time.”
Organizers said they will work with “authorities and relevant agencies over the next few days to work through the necessary ramifications.”
New Zealand has been only lightly touched by the coronavirus pandemic and until Sunday life went on as normal with no restrictions on gatherings and unlimited crowds at sports events. New Zealand has had only 26 deaths as a result of COVID-19.
Races in the challenger series so far have been watched by a large flotilla of spectator boats on the water and by substantial crowds at viewing areas on shore.
Team UK skipper Ben Ainslie said the teams had enjoyed the freedom afforded by recent New Zealand’s COVID-free status.
“We’re very fortunate to be out here and doing a yacht race which we all love,” he said. “It’s a difficult situation.
“To be perfectly honest I don’t know what the restrictions are, I’ve just picked up the news. But obviously we’ll do whatever the authorities advise us to do. Of course it’s more important that people are safe and healthy.”