Health authorities are scrambling to discover how a New Zealand family contracted COVID-19, after the country went 100 days without a single case.
New Zealand will be thrown back into lockdown at midday on Wednesday after the four new coronavirus cases were discovered.
All the new cases are believed to be from a Pasifika family in Auckland, however, there is no known source and they had not been abroad.
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield confirmed the family had no connection to overseas travellers or the hotel quarantine program.
The government is now rushing to test about 50,000 people by the end of the week to stop the virus from spreading further throughout the community.
Auckland, the city with the largest population, will be placed under Stage Three lockdown, forcing families to stay-at-home for 72 hours.
The rest of the country will be under Stage Two restrictions – mandating social distancing and limits on the size of gatherings.
Shoppers are seen queuing for food at a supermarket in Auckland on Wednesday morning (pictured) as the city prepares for another lockdown
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern implemented Stage Three stay-at-home orders for Auckland for 72 hours from midday on Wednesday after the city reported four new cases of COVID-19.
Among the new cases is a man in his 50s who works the night shift at a coolstore business.
The company has been shutdown and all 130 staff are being tested.
Three of his colleagues are awaiting test results and at least two colleagues are showing symptoms.
Mr Bloomfield said testing is underway at the cool store to see if that may have been where the outbreak came from.
He said overseas research showed the virus could survive in these cool environments for some time.
The man’s daughter who also tested positive for the virus attended Mt Albert Primary School, which has now been closed for cleaning.
‘Auckland Regional Public Health Service and the Ministry of Education will work with the school principal to decide if there has been any exposure to Covid-19 at the school. A decision will be made about whether there needs to be testing at the school,’ the health notice said.
On Wednesday, Jacinda Ardern announced all aged care facilities will close their doors to everyone but staff from midday.
‘This is tough for people, but it’s necessary. We need to protect the most vulnerable.’ she said.
She also urged residents in Auckland to wear a mask or face covering when out in public.
‘If you are in Auckland, please cover your face if you leave home – masks or a bandanna is fine.
Workers are seen in Auckland on Tuesday morning (pictured), wearing face masks as the city recorded four new coronavirus cases
Residents are seen wearing masks as they walk around Auckland (pictured) on Wednesday, hours before Stage 3 lockdown begins
‘We are not mandating general use but strongly encouraging use in Auckland region.’
Ms Ardern announced sweeping new lockdown orders on Tuesday night, sparking panic-buying across Auckland city.
‘We are taking a rapid response to break the change of transmission,’ Ms Ardern said.
Ms Ardern specifically encouraged people to wear masks to the supermarket, doubling down on her pleas to avoid overcrowding in stores.
But her advice fell on deaf ears as shops throughout Auckland and surrounding suburbs were inundated on Tuesday night.
Queues snaked around the block and car parks were overflowing at grocery stores throughout the city – even as Ms Ardern begged Kiwis not to congregate at shopping centres.
Countdown Supermarkets issued a public plea for consumers to stick to their regular shopping behaviour while also confirming it had to close stores early in response to the mad rush.
More than 1.6million people won’t be allowed to leave their homes for anything other than essential reasons after four new cases of community transmission were identified on Tuesday
A news alert is displayed on a mobile phone in Christchurch, New Zealand following the announcement of four new COVID-19 cases
‘Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that Auckland will move to Level 3 tomorrow at midday, we have closed our Auckland stores tonight, other stores remain open as usual,’ a statement released late on Tuesday read.
‘Over the next few hours, we’ll be working to bring our Alert Level 3 measures into place in Auckland, and Level 2 measures throughout the rest of the country.
‘This will include physical distancing in our stores, limits on customer numbers, limits on some products, queue control and extra cleaning and hygiene measures.’
The plea fell on deaf ears, with about 50 people queued out the front of Countdown in Westgate, northwest Auckland, by about 10pm on Tuesday night.
The store normally closes about 11pm, but shut its doors at 10.30pm following the influx of people.
Footage taken at Countdown in New Lynn showed panicked residents had ripped the doors open and flooded inside, scrambling over the top of one another and ignoring all social distancing protocols.
Police were called as security tried to control the crowds, which included a woman with her baby who insisted she needed food for the child.
‘I counted over 200 people in the line, there are cars literally queuing up outside because there aren’t enough car parks,’ one of the shoppers in the queue told NZHerald on Tuesday night.
‘It was chaos,’ another said. ‘There was traffic blocking all of the roads leading to the supermarket, the parking lot was completely full and there were cars queued to get into the parking lot.
‘There was already a queue snaking outside. I didn’t think I’d even be able to get a park, let alone get the shopping done before the store closed.’
The customer said it was pandemonium when he arrived around 9.50pm – while Ms Ardern was still holding her press conference.
Countdown at Manukau and Johnsonville in Wellington experienced similar crowds of shoppers.
New Zealanders received this text message on Tuesday evening, informing them of the latest restrictions
While some Kiwis denounced Ms Ardern’s lockdown, the overwhelming majority were supportive
Following the announcement, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called for calm.
‘I understand that people are probably feeling a little bit scared, a little angry and a little confused right now. None of us wanted to go back into a lockdown, but we always knew this was a very real possibility,’ he said.
‘I am urging Aucklanders to come together like we did last time to stamp out community transmission. Please remain calm, please do not panic buy and please follow the lockdown rules.’
He reminded the community that they had beaten COVID-19 once before, and said he had no doubt they would do it again.
The lockdown is only expected to last three days at the moment, but Ms Ardern could not rule out extending the measures should contact tracing over the next few days prove insufficient to stem the spread of the virus.
Medical staff test residents of South Auckland at a pop up COVID-19 testing centre in the Otara Mall, in Auckland (pictured on Wednesday)
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured, at a campaign launch on August 8) has plunged the country back into lockdown
Professor Shaun Hendy from the University of Auckland praised Ms Ardern’s instructions for residents to wear masks while out in the public.
Professor Hendy said while not everybody is able to wear a mask, those who choose to do so will be protecting the entire community.
The announcement comes just after the country celebrated 100 days without a single case of community transmission.
New Zealanders had been enjoying the return of their usual freedoms after Ms Ardern plunged her nation into one of the harshest lockdowns in the world in March.
Ms Ardern was widely praised for her handling of the global pandemic for swiftly introducing strict measures to eliminate the deadly virus.
Pictured: Shoppers seen with trolleys full of groceries on Tuesday night following Jacinda Ardern’s announcement
Three measures had been hailed as the drivers behind New Zealand’s success, including: border controls, lockdown and case-based controls.
Australia adopted a similar method of suppression but has since seen a second deadly wave of infections ravage Victoria – with cases creeping into New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
Ms Ardern announced the ‘toughest border restrictions of any country in the world’ in mid-March when she enforced mandatory self-isolation for all international arrivals. The country had just six coronavirus cases at the time of the announcement.
Less than a week later on March 20, Ms Ardern closed the country’s borders for the first time in New Zealand’s history. The number of COVID-19 infections had scaled past 20.
Panic buyers flooded grocery stores throughout New Zealand on Tuesday night ahead of the lockdown on Wednesday
New Zealand’s borders remain shut to this day and only Kiwi citizens, permanent residents and their family members can enter the country.
Ms Ardern continued to move quickly, declaring a State of National Emergency to fight COVID-19 and putting all residents into Alert Level 4 – ‘eliminate’ – from 11.59pm on March 25.
All non-essential businesses and educational facilities were forced to close and Kiwis were required to stay home for four weeks.
At the end of April, New Zealand moved to Alert Level 3 and then to Alert Level 2 on in May as coronavirus infections continued to decline.
Ms Ardern said elimination doesn’t mean zero cases.
‘It means zero tolerance for cases. It means when a case emerges, and it will, we test, we contact trace, we isolate, and we do that every single time with the ambition that when we see COVID-19, we eliminate it,’ she said.
A grocery store in Johnsonville in Wellington was flooded with panic buyers late on Tuesday, with some knocking over toilet paper in their rush to stock up
‘That is how we will keep our transmission rate under 1, and it is how we will keep succeeding.’
The continuous tracking of cases allowed New Zealand to stop coronavirus from spreading through the community.
New Zealand entered Alert Level 1 at 11.59pm on Monday June 8. There were no active coronavirus cases in the country and it had been 40 days since community transmission.
Last month, Ms Ardern said the second outbreak in Victoria is a ‘cautionary tale’ to learn from.
‘It appears their current outbreak is linked to a managed isolation facility similar to the ones we run here,’ she said.
‘That goes to show how quickly the virus can spread and it can move from being under control to out of control, and that even the best plans still carry risk in a pandemic.’