Published on : Monday, February 15, 2021
On Sunday, February 14, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered a three-day lockdown in Auckland in order to stop the spread of the new U.K. variant of the COVID-19 virus. The level 3 restrictions will require everyone to stay home except for essential shopping and essential work and will force a delay in America’s Cup sailing regatta. The current lockdown is the second time Auckland has been put under measures since last year’s nationwide lockdown that helped New Zealand to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Ardern said in her statement that genomic testing has showcased three community cases of the U.K. variant of Covid-19 prompting 1.6 million Kiwis to face bans on non-essential movement until midnight on Wednesday as part of alert level three restrictions. The rest of New Zealand has also been placed in alert level two restrictions, mandating social distancing, caps on gathering and increased mask wearing. As health authorities work towards getting a complete picture of the virus spread, it is yet to be decided if the lockdown will extend beyond midnight on Wednesday, February 17.
Prime Minister Ardern said in a press statement that the country have stamped out the virus before and will be doing the same again. She stated that three days should give authorities enough time to gather further information, undertake large-scale testing and establish if there has been wider community transmission and shared that cautious approach is required and is the right thing to do. She also informed that health officials were still trying to identify the source of infection, working on two main leads.
The Ministry of Health has informed that now no new COVID-19 cases have been identified in the community though there were another five in managed isolation, bringing the country’s total number of active cases to 47. It also said contact tracers had identified 10 close contacts of the family, six of whom had tested negative for the virus and four of whom were still waiting for results. The health ministry also said the Institute of Environmental Science and Research was now conducting a scan of the international genome database to find a match.
It also said serology testing for the three positive cases, who are currently in quarantine, and a close household contact, who is in isolation, was also underway. New Zealanders are also being asked to download a COVID Tracer application and scan QR codes to record movement and who they pass by. In light of the present situation, Australia has halted quarantine-free travel for New Zealand for an initial three-day period, starting Monday. People arriving from New Zealand will need to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days in Australia.