New Zealand has plunged back into a strict lockdown after four members of one family tested positive for coronavirus – despite 102 days of zero community transmission.
The nation has been the envy of the world for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly after passing the 100 day milestone.
Stay-at-home orders will be implemented throughout Auckland from midday on Wednesday, while the rest of the nation will enter a level two lockdown after new cases were identified on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern scheduled a last minute press conference for about 9.15pm on Tuesday night as word spread of the lockdown.
Contact tracing is now underway among multiple workplaces across New Zealand, and close contacts of the confirmed cases have been instructed to self isolate.
Ms Ardern is concerned about the origin of the virus, given the family have no links to overseas travellers or managed hotel isolation.
An Auckland man in his 50s tested positive to coronavirus twice on Tuesday, up to five days after he first developed symptoms, sparking fears he could have spread the virus throughout his community.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern scheduled a last minute press conference for about 9.15pm on Tuesday night as word spread of the lockdown
The man’s partner reportedly had symptoms even before he did, and later tested positive to COVID-19.
A preschool aged child is also among the new confirmed cases.
‘We have not yet been able to determine the source of these cases, there is no known link to hotel quarantine.
‘One of the most important lessons we have learned from overseas is to go hard at this… In line with our precautionary approach, we will be asking Aucklanders to take swift lockdown’.
Ms Ardern admitted authorities are ‘expecting to see more cases’ linked to the cluster.
The popular PM will plunge Auckland back into a stage three lockdown from Wednesday in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus as part of her ‘resurgence plan’.
‘You are asked to stay home in your bubble unless you are an essential worker’.
The popular PM will plunge Auckland back into a stage three lockdown from Wednesday in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus as part of her ‘resurgence plan’
All bars, restaurants and public services must close by midday on Wednesday, as gatherings of more than 10 are prohibited.
Schools will also close to all students other than children of essential workers.
‘If you are in Auckland, we ask that you wear a mask when accessing essential services.’
‘While this initial three day lockdown will primarily effect the Auckland region, I am asking our team of five million to stay alert as well. We have defeated this virus before and can do it again.’
The rest of the nation will enter a three day level two lockdown.
Level two lockdown involves social distancing, mindful hand-washing regimes, staying home and seeking testing if unwell, and wearing a mask in areas where distancing isn’t possible.
Ms Ardern would not indicate whether the lockdown would be extended if contact tracing and widespread testing do not identify the source of the current outbreak.
Police stop vehicles in Auckland during the initial stage four lockdown in March
Auckland will reenter a stage three lockdown from midday Wednesday. Pictured: Police performing checks during the last lockdown
‘If we are not able to identify the source, we should be able to identify whether we have wider geographic spread.’
Authorities hope their swift action will help to manage the potential spread of the virus following the latest outbreak.
‘We’ve had 102 days, and it was very easy to feel like New Zealand was out of the woods,’ Ms Ardern said on Tuesday night.
‘No country has gone as far as we did to not have a resurgence. But because we were the only ones, we knew we had to have a plan.
‘My request is to not be dispirited or disheartened… This is something we have prepared for.’
New Zealand first went into level 4 lockdown on March 25, acting swiftly once the threat of COVID-19 was present.
By April 27, the virus appeared somewhat under control and the lockdown was eased to level 3.
Queen Street in the Auckland CBD was deserted durung the last COVID-19 virus lockdown in March
May 13 signalled the beginning of level 2 lockdown while most restrictions were entirely eased on June 9.
Ms Ardern said she has no doubt New Zealand will defeat the virus for a second time.
Following the announcement, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called for calm within the community.
‘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.’
Ms Ardern assured the public supermarkets would remain open and fully stocked during any lockdown, and urged people not to flock to stores.
More to come.