New COVID-19 cases found outside of Auckland as Cabinet meets over outbreak

Sydney, Australia, Aug 14 (efe-epa).- New Zealand health authorities announced 12 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, two of which were recorded outside of Auckland where all other cases of the outbreak have been recorded.

The new cluster outbreak was discovered early this week, and the source of which is still unknown, broke the country’s 102-day streak of no local transmission.

Of the 12 new cases, 11 – including the two found outside the city – are considered part of the same Auckland cluster, while the case of one person admitted to a hospital in the city was under investigation, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield announced in a press conference Friday.

Two of the new confirmed cases were detected in the town of Tokoroa, about 210 kilometers south of Auckland, Bloomfield said, adding that they were in contact with two people who tested positive and had visited from Auckland.

The cases take the total from the new outbreak to 30, while another case was deemed “probable.”

Concerns center on the local transmission of COVID-19 in the wake of the outbreak, which was first detected on Tuesday in four members of the same South Auckland family.

The origin “is still a piece of the puzzle we’re looking to fill,” Bloomfield said.

Testing of surfaces at an Auckland coolstore – where one case works – are pending, and all frontline border staff are being tested as widespread contact tracing is being carried out.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins at the press conference said although authorities are still looking at human-to-human transmission as the likely source of the outbreak, there was still an investigation taking place into the chain from the border to the coolstore where frozen freight from abroad is held.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose management against COVID-19 has been internationally applauded, was to meet at 3pm and an announcement on decisions made there will be announced later in the day.

Among the topics up for discussion is the possibility of extending the three-day Level-3 lockdown imposed on the 1.7 million residents of Auckland that ends Friday night, as well as whether to maintain Level-2 restrictions across in the rest of the country or whether to tighten them in certain areas classified as at risk.

The outbreak has surprised the country, which had returned to normal in early June after having supposedly eliminated all local transmission of the virus, with the only cases registered in quarantine centers for those arriving from abroad.

New Zealand, which was subjected to one of the strictest lockdowns in the world at the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic when it had about 50 cases, has recorded 1,251 COVID-19 cases, including 22 deaths, of which 48 cases are currently active. EFE-EPA


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