- New Zealand is scrambling to contain its first coronavirus outbreak in over three months.
- The country lauded for its pandemic response recorded 13 new community infections on Thursday.
- Auckland, where the first four new community cases were recorded, has been placed under a strict lockdown, and social distancing measures have been introduced across the rest of the country.
- New Zealand previously recorded zero new COVID-19 cases for 100 consecutive days.
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “Once again we are reminded of how tricky this virus is and how easily it can spread. Going hard and early is still the best course of action.”
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New Zealand is racing to contain its first coronavirus outbreak in over three months after 13 community infections were recorded on Thursday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been widely praised for her response to the coronavirus pandemic, which saw the government in Wellington pursue an aggressive elimination strategy which meant that, by last week, the country had not recorded any new community cases in over 100 days.
But health officials discovered four infected family members in the city of Auckland earlier this week, leading the government to lock down the city and introduce strict social distancing measures for the rest of the country.
Officials on Thursday recorded 13 new community cases, as well as one case from abroad, bringing the total number of active cases in New Zealand to 36, according to Reuters.
“Once again we are reminded of how tricky this virus is and how easily it can spread,” Ardern said during a televised press conference on Thursday. “Going hard and early is still the best course of action.”
Ardern warned that case numbers were likely to rise further, but said it was a positive sign that all current cases had so far been linked back to one family.
Level 3 restrictions were reintroduced in Auckland on Wednesday and will remain in place through midnight on Friday. Non-essential businesses in New Zealand’s most populous city are temporarily shut alongside schools and childcare facilities. Crowds of over 10 people are banned and residents, who are urged to work from home, will only be permitted to leave for “essential movements,” like going to the grocery store.
The rest of New Zealand will adhere to Level 2 restrictions. Gatherings must be limited to 100 people, and public venues, including swimming pools and museums, can keep their doors open so long as they maintain records of visitors and enforce social distancing.
“I know that this information will be very difficult to receive. We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again. But we had also prepared for it. And as a team, we have also been here before,” Ardern said earlier this week.