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
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.