Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand has declared a 12-day extension of lockdown, after a cluster of cases grew to 29.
There are four “alert levels” in New Zealand, and Auckland has been on Level 3 since day before yesterday. The rest of the country is on Level 2, and Ms Ardern said both would be extended.
New Zealand has had success containing coronavirus, and went 102 days without a community transmission. The origin of the cluster in Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city having 1.5 million inhabitant – is still being investigated.
The Prime Minister said the decision to extend the restrictions was “in keeping with our cautionary approach and New Zealand’s philosophy of going hard and going early”.
She said that, in 12 days’ time, she thought “the cluster will be identified, will be isolated, and we can move to Level 2 in Auckland with confidence”.
All 29 cases “remain linked to one cluster centred in Auckland”, Ms Ardern said, adding that 38 people are in government quarantine.
But she said that, although the first cases of the new outbreak were confirmed in Auckland on Tuesday, contact-tracing had uncovered an earlier case, involving a shop worker in the Mt Wellington district of Auckland who became sick on 31 July.
“In terms of the ongoing investigation to identify where the virus originated from, there are still no clear connections at this point,” Ms Ardern said.
But she said genomic testing and contact-tracing suggested the current outbreak was not linked to border entry points or New Zealand’s previous outbreak in March.
New Zealand could expect to see more cases from the cluster, she said, adding: “It will grow before it slows.
“And it may continue to be linked to schools, churches and social gatherings, as it has done to date. We also know, based on overseas experience and our own, that it is possible to contain a cluster or outbreak without ever being able to identify its origin.”
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