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Covid-19: New Zealand PM orders nationwide lockdown over one case

Reuters/Wellington
Filed on August 17, 2021
Photo: Reuters

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rushed back to the capital to attend a cabinet meeting on next steps.


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a nationwide lockdown on Tuesday after a new case of Covid-19 was discovered in the biggest city of Auckland.

The lockdown will run seven days in Auckland, but three days elsewhere. Ardern said authorities were assuming the new case was a Delta variant although this has not been confirmed.

Imposing its toughest level 4 lockdown rules, schools, offices and all businesses will be shut down and only essential services will be operational.

"The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard," Ardern told a news conference.

"We have made the decision on the basis that it is better to start high and go down levels rather than to go low, not contain the virus and see it move quickly," she said.

Ardern said authorities were assuming the new case was a Delta variant infection although this has not been confirmed. There may be other cases, she said.

New Zealand on Tuesday reported its first case of Covid-19 in the community in six months after a person tested positive in its largest city of Auckland.

The link between the case and the border or managed isolation is yet to be established, the Health Ministry said in a statement, adding the case is now being investigated.

The last reported community case of Covid-19 in New Zealand was in February.

The Auckland Regional Public Health unit is undertaking interviews with the case for contact tracing purposes, the statement said.

“Ministers will meet this afternoon once additional information is gathered to confirm a response,” it added.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had rushed back to the capital Wellington from Auckland to attend a cabinet meeting on next steps, state broadcaster TVNZ reported.

New Zealand has followed a go-hard and early response that has helped it virtually eliminate Covid-19 domestically, allowing people to live without restrictions although its international border remains largely closed.

The country has reported about 2,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 26 related deaths.

University of Auckland Covid-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy, who has helped the government model its response to the virus, said Aucklanders must take precautions and assume they have been exposed to the virus.

“If there is a link to the border, then there is a chance we’ve caught this outbreak at an early stage. If not, then there will be more cases out there. In either case, we should be prepared for an Alert Level change in Auckland, if not other parts of the country,” Hendy said on Twitter.

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The New Zealand dollar tumbled 0.7 per cent to $0.6972 after the community case was discovered.

The news came a day before the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) is expected to become the first central bank among developed countries to raise interest rates since the pandemic as the economy booms.





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