Auckland under three-day lockdown after Covid found in New Zealand’s biggest city

‘Please remember, we are going to be okay,’ says Jacinda Ardern

Bethany Dawson@bethanymrd
Sunday 14 February 2021 14:57
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New Zealand’s largest city is being placed in a three-day level 3 lockdown following the discovery of three cases of coronavirus in the community.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced the move for Auckland after an urgent meeting with other top politicians in the cabinet.

Ms Ardern also confirmed that the rest of the country would be going into level 2 restrictions.

She said the country will be taking a cautious approach until they find out more about the outbreak, including whether the infections were of the new, more contagious variants.

Under the new restrictions, people living in Auckland will not be permitted to leave the city, working from home is encouraged, and children are encouraged to learn from home if possible. People are not permitted to leave their household support bubble.

Throughout the rest of the country, social distancing is now enforced, large events and hospitality venues will have a maximum attendance of 100 people, and mask wearing is mandatory on public transport.

The lockdown is the first in New Zealand in six months and represents a significant setback in the nation’s largely successful efforts to control the virus.

Before this point, New Zealand had successfully put a stop to community spread, claiming the prize of envy of the world as the country enjoyed normal life.

However, the joy of normality and socialisation has now taken a hit, with Ms Ardern having to cancel her attendance at Auckland’s Big Gay Out to return to the capital, Wellington, to manage the outbreak.

“I’m asking New Zealanders to continue to be strong and to be kind,” Ms Ardern said at a hastily arranged press conference on Sunday evening. “I know we all feel the same way when this happens. We all get that sense of ‘not again’. But remember, we have been here before and that means we know how to get out of this again, and that is together.”

“Please remember, we are going to be okay,” Ms Ardern said.

In this latest case, an Auckland mother, father and daughter have caught the virus. Officials have said the mother works at a catering company that carries out laundry services for airlines, and an investigation is under way to determine whether an infected passenger passed on the virus through the mother’s work. Officials said the woman had not been going aboard the planes herself.

“We are gathering all of the facts as quickly as we can, and the system that served us so well in the past is really gearing up to do so again,” said the minister for Covid-19 response, Chris Hipkins.

He described the cases as new and active. He said scientists are carrying out genome sequencing to see whether they are variants, and also to see whether they match with any infected passengers.

“New Zealand has kept Covid-19 contained better than almost any other country,” Mr Hipkins said. “But as we have kept saying, there is no such thing as no risk.”

New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has reported a total of 2,330 cases and 25 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic started.

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