National health authorities in New Zealand announced on Tuesday that they were once again locking down the country’s largest city after four new cases of the coronavirus were diagnosed there.
These cases constitute the first-known domestic transmissions of the disease after the small island nation of five million had touted that it had been virus-free for a total of 102 days.
The nation’s seemingly successful campaign against the pandemic had been championed by world health experts, who had congratulated Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand health authorities for their strict adherence to social distancing protocols.
According to a Reuters report, Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s Director of Health, announced on Tuesday that all of the new cases were within one family, with one victim in their 50’s. The family was not known to have traveled to any other nation recently, but contact tracing is now being done to try to establish just how they contracted the virus.
After being hailed on the world stage for its purported complete victory over the coronavirus, New Zealand is now facing another lockdown, with residents seen making runs for supermarket staples and businesses saying they were readying for closures.
Prime Minister Ardern was quoted by Reuters as saying that Auckland would be placed into “Level Three” restrictions beginning at noon on Wednesday as a “precautionary approach.” This level calls for citizens to stay away from work and school, and gatherings of more than ten people will no longer be allowed.
However, this strict lockdown will be imposed for only three days; at the end of the day on Friday of this week, the nation’s health authorities will assess the risk, gather more data and ensure that contact tracing is being carried out appropriately.
At a surprise news conference, PM Ardern announced on Tuesday that the unfortunate developments were “something we have prepared for.” She then added that the extra precautions were necessary because the original source of this new outbreak is unknown at present.
“We have had 102 days, and it was easy to feel New Zealand was out of the woods. No country has gone as far as we did without having a resurgence. And because we were the only ones, we had to plan. And we have planned,” she stated.
The entire country was placed under a strict lockdown for weeks at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic after its first case was diagnosed on February 26. New Zealand’s last-known case was detected on May 1, leading many to believe they may had seen the last of the virus in the island nation.
However, the country’s health authorities warned at the time that it could still see new cases pop up as time went on, giving the examples of Vietnam and Australia; both countries at one time believed that they had the virus under control.