New Zealand’s prime minister said Friday the government will extend a partial lockdown for the city of Auckland until August 26 following a new coronavirus outbreak, the first such flare-up in months.
At a news conference in Wellington, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters there are signs that New Zealand caught the latest outbreak “relatively early in its life.” Ardern said she expects that cases linked to the original cluster will be identified and isolated.
Ardern originally called for a three-day lockdown following the discovery of the outbreak, in an Auckland family. These were the country’s first locally transmitted infections in 102 days. Since then, 29 cases, all linked to the same cluster, have been identified. According to the Associated Press, the outbreak has extended beyond Auckland.
The only known infections outside the city involved two people in the central North Island town of Tokoroa who were linked to the Auckland cluster by a family visit. Officials said they thought the chances were low the virus would spread further in Tokoroa.
Several of those infected work at a food storage facility in the Auckland suburb of Mt. Wellington. Officials are looking at the possibility that workers on a freight ship or at the port may have spread the infections, despite physical distancing requirements at those sites and orders preventing ship workers coming ashore.
Until the new cases were discovered, health experts held up New Zealand as an example of how to manage the pandemic. Ardern said she believes in her government’s strategy. “We have been world leading in our COVID response, with the result that many lives were saved and our economy was getting going faster than almost anywhere else again. We can do all of that again.” COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.