‘CATASTROPHIC’: Mystery virus case sparks NZ lockdown

 

New Zealand is no longer virus free, with four cases confirmed from one household in Auckland.

The cases have no known source and authorities are working to figure out where the family contracted coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland would return to stage three restrictions for three days starting from midday.

The rest of the country will return to stage two for thee days until midnight Friday.

"I know this information will be difficult to receive," she said.

"We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again. We have come to far to go backwards."

Ms Arden said people in Auckland would have to wear a mask accessing essential services and the rest of the country when social distancing was not possible.

The cases had no connection to overseas travel.

This alert was sent to New Zealanders' phones. Source:NZ Herald
This alert was sent to New Zealanders' phones. Source:NZ Herald

The news of a return to lockdown conditions sparked scenes of panic buying on Tuesday night, with calls for calm from Auckland's mayor Phil Goff.

"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.

"Please follow Ministry of Health advice around good hygiene practices and social distancing. If you have symptoms, please make sure you get tested and avoid contact with others.

"We beat community transmission once and we can do again, but that requires all of us to work as a team.

"Like last time, more details will be forthcoming over the next little while, so please keep updated through news channel and official government websites," said Goff.

Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford told the New Zealand Herald the lockdown was devastating for a struggling sector and another nail in the coffin for many businesses.

"The retail sector has been struggling to recover from the effects of the earlier lockdowns, and spending since March is still down nearly 10 per cent," Harford said.

"A further lockdown has the potential to be catastrophic for struggling businesses, and Retail NZ is hoping that the new lockdown will be lifted quickly once the full situation is known and managed."

 

NO CONNECTION TO OVERSEAS TRAVEL

The cases had no connection to overseas travel. The first case confirmed was a person in their 50s who presented to their GP with symptoms yesterday.

The man had strong symptoms including a fever and a cough, and the man's partner also had strong symptoms, Dr Bloomfield said.

There were five days from symptom onset until they were tested, he said, which was why close contacts were being followed up.

Ms Ardern said more information would be shared, but privacy issues needed to be considered.

Dr Bloomfield said authorities sprung into action and tested the rest of the family.

Of the six other family members tested, three were positive and the others returned negative results.

They remain in their home for now but Ms Ardern said moving them to a quarantine facility was being considered.

He said close contacts were being tested and had gone into self-isolation. Casual contacts have also gone into self-isolation.

Dr Bloomfield said it was inevitable the virus was going to return to the country.

"This is a tricky virus," he said.

"The cases are a wake up call for any complacency that may have set in. The important thing now is that we stop the spread of the virus in the community. We need to stamp it out."

Ms Ardern said more than one workplace was involved and it was likely it wasn't just one suburb alone in Auckland affected.

She said the most important thing to do was find the origin of the cases.

"There is no immediate link we have found, as yet, to a managed isolation facility, and there is no connection to a high risk person, such as those who work at the border," she said.

Workers at the border are also being tested.

RETURN OF RESTRICTIONS

Those in Auckland will have to work from home unless they are an essential service worker.

Schools will only open for students who have parents who are essential workers. Public facilities, bars, restaurants and businesses must close by midday Wednesday.

People can only leave the house for essential services and gatherings of more than 10 people are restricted. For the rest of the country, mass gatherings will be limited to 100 people.

Ms Ardern said the three-day restrictions would give authorities time to assess the situation.

"We're asking people in Auckland to stay home to stop the spread," she said.

"Act as if you have COVID, and as though people around you have COVID.

"We have come too far to go backwards."



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