Health

New Zealand puts Auckland into lockdown after 4 COVID-19 cases discovered

Sydney, Australia, Aug 12 (efe-epa).- The New Zealand government put the 1.7 million residents of the country’s largest city of Auckland back into lockdown Wednesday after confirming the first cases of local COVID-19 transmission after 102 days.

On Tuesday night, the government announced four cases of community transmission in one family in South Auckland. They have no connection to overseas travel, nor any apparent link to high-risk workers such as at borders or quarantine facilities.

“We are taking a rapid response to break the chain of transmission through contact tracing, testing and the gathering of information,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose management of the coronavirus epidemic has been applauded internationally, at a press conference in Wellington.

“Testing will play a very important role over the next three days as we gather further information,” the Labour party leader added.

The New Zealand authorities raised its alerts to Level 3 in Auckland and to Level 2 in the rest of the country, which will take effect from Wednesday at midday (00:00 GMT) until midnight on Friday, although this is expected to be extended.

Rest homes have also been put into full Level-4 lockdown, banning any visitors.

Level 3 requires a 2-meter physical distance between all people in public, and home confinement with contact only with a “bubble” of close family members.

The use of face masks is recommended, gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people and only for funerals and weddings, and restaurants may produce food only for take away or delivery, while workplaces should only open if employees cannot work from home, with customers not allowed on the premises.

At Level 2, the rest of New Zealand is not required to stay home unless they are sick, but they will have to respect social distancing measures and limit gatherings to a maximum of 100 people.

Since the announcement of the cases, Auckland residents have flocked to supermarkets and COVID-19 testing centers, while Police have set up roadblocks around the city.

The authorities are trying to trace the origin and contacts of the four infected people, including a minor, who contracted COVID-19 in New Zealand, which has had 1,223 confirmed cases, including 22 deaths, with 25 active cases from overseas.

At the end of March the New Zealand government imposed one of the strictest quarantines in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed it to return to normality on June 9 after announcing that it had eliminated community transmission of the virus.

The discovery of the new cases comes in the middle of political party campaigning that began Saturday for the general election scheduled to be held on Sep. 19, which will be marked by security measures due to the epidemic.

Ardern took office in October 2017 and leads a coalition with Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party. She has a strong chance of winning the election with an advantage that allows her Labour party to rule alone. EFE-EPA

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