Home https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ World https://server7.kproxy.com/servlet/redirect.srv/sruj/smyrwpoii/p2/ New Zealand introduces 12-day lockdown in Auckland as it battles fresh Covid-19 outbreak

New Zealand introduces 12-day lockdown in Auckland as it battles fresh Covid-19 outbreak

Just five days ago, New Zealand marked an enviable milestone – 100 days without any community transmission. But this week has demonstrated how quickly that can change, even in a country like New Zealand, which has been held as the world leader for its handling of the virus.

On Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland – the city of about 1.5 million people at the center of the new eruption – will remain below a level three lockdown for another 12 days, while the rest of the country will remain below level two restrictions. , which means gatherings are limited to a maximum of 100 people. The rules extend the restrictions that went into effect earlier this week.

Under Level 3 restrictions, people will be told to stay home for significant personal movement, schools will operate with limited capacity, and public venues such as museums, playgrounds, and gyms will remain closed.

The fresh outbreak is a blow to New Zealand. The country already spent five weeks during one of the world̵

7;s toughest lockdowns, which closed most businesses and schools and saw people stay at home.

Ardern has warned that she expects to see more cases.

“Lifting restrictions now and seeing an explosion of cases is the worst thing we could do for Auckland and for the New Zealand economy,” she said. “We’ve gotten rid of Covid before … We can do it all over again.”

Earlier Friday, New Zealand’s Director General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, another 12 locally transmitted coronavirus cases. There are now 49 active cases in New Zealand to 49, of which 29 are linked to the recent outbreak.
The cases are all in Auckland except for two in Tokoroa, a city of 24,000 approx. 200 km (124 miles) south of the city. According to the health ministry, these two tested positive after a visit from a contact in one of the Auckland cases.

At a news conference Friday, Bloomfield said 771 close contacts with the confirmed cases had been identified and more than 15,700 tests had been processed on Thursday – the highest number of tests processed in a single day in the country.

Since the start of the eruption, New Zealand has conducted more than 500,000 tests. It has reported a total of 1,251 coronavirus cases, including 22 deaths.

What caused the eruption?

There is still a big, unanswered question: How did this outbreak happen?

The remote island nation introduced strict border controls back in March, which means that for the most part, only New Zealanders are allowed to enter the country – and those arriving from abroad must spend 14 days in state quarantine facilities. According to the Ministry of Health, 68% of New Zealand’s cases are imported or linked to imported cases.
One possible reason for this recent outbreak is that coronavirus somehow got out of New Zealand’s state quarantine facilities. It said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters to the Australian national television company ABC and said: “I think there has been a breach of our quarantine system.”
There have been breaches in New Zealand before – in July, a man cut through a fence at a managed isolation facility to visit a liquor store, and another man, who later tested positive for coronavirus, broke out of a facility and visited a supermarket. Quarantine burglary was linked to an outbreak in the Australian state of Victoria, which is currently under closure.
A pedestrian walks past a social distance sign on 14 August 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

So far, authorities have not found a match between the genome involved in this recent outbreak and any cases in managed isolation facilities. Bloomfield said the new cases most closely resemble genome patterns from the UK and Australia.

Bloomfield believes the outbreak could have entered through the isolation facilities rather than being present for months in New Zealand.

“I think there is very good evidence to suggest that it has not lurked in society,” he said. Ardern said on Friday that the strain of the new eruption is not the same as the previous one that existed in New Zealand.

Authorities are also testing samples from surfaces at Americold, a U.S. temperature-controlled storage company where one of the original four to test positives worked. A number of cases are linked to the company.

But Ardern said authorities did not yet know how the outbreak happened.

“We do not necessarily have to answer that question to deal with this cluster effectively,” she said.

Director General of Health, Dr.  Ashley Bloomfield, speaking to the media during a press conference in Parliament on 14 August 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

How New Zealand compares

New Zealand’s recent outbreaks have drawn parallels with Australia and Hong Kong – both places that imposed strict border measures as they had low infection rates and appeared to have the virus under control, only to experience a resurgence of the virus.

In the Australian state of Victoria, a shutdown and a curfew have been imposed in Melbourne. As of Thursday, Victoria – a state with about 6 million people – had more than 7,800 active cases of coronavirus and 275 deaths.
In Hong Kong – with approx. 7.5 million people – there are about 1,000 active cases, of which 32 are in critical condition. 66 people have died. Despite the current outbreak, the city has not introduced a lockdown, although people must wear masks in public or have a fine, public gatherings are limited to two people, and restaurants and bars must close at night except takeaways.

On Thursday, Ardern noted that New Zealand had imposed restrictions within 24 hours of the first new coronavirus cases – a response she said was faster than in Hong Kong or Victoria.

“The pace and speed should also act as an extra layer of reassurance,” she said on Thursday, repeating the mantra she has said since the start of the eruption: “Going hard and early is still the best course of action.”

CNN’s Isaac Yee contributed to this story.

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