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Coronavirus: First outbreak in New Zealand after 102 days sees Auckland put into lockdown

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Coronavirus has broken out again in New Zealand after more than 100 days and prompted the country’s government to put its largest city into strict lockdown.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday said four people from one family in South Auckland were found to have contracted COVID-19.

These are the first new cases of locally-acquired coronavirus after New Zealand went 102 days without any domestic transmission.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 09: A cyclist commuter pushes his bike along Ponsonby Road on June 09, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. COVID-19 restrictions lifted at midnight as New Zealand moved to COVID-19 Alert Level 1. The lifting of restrictions under Alert Level 1 comes after the government confirmed zero active cases in New Zealand and will see life mostly return to normal. Strict border measures will remain with mandatory 14 day isolation and quarantine for any overseas arrivals. New Zealanders are also being asked to keep diaries in the event of a second wave of infections. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
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Auckland will move to ‘Level Three’ restrictions following the outbreak

In response, Auckland, on New Zealand’s North Island, will be placed into “Level Three” restrictions from midday on Wednesday.

Local residents are being told by Ms Ardern to “stay home to stop the spread” of the disease and “act as if you have COVID, and as if the people around you have COVID”.

Those in Auckland are being urged to work from home and only leave their houses for “essential movements” such as going to the supermarket or local park.

But Ms Ardern urged against panic-buying at supermarkets on Tuesday night.

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Schools and nurseries will close to pupils apart from the children of key workers, while gatherings of more than ten people will be restricted.

Bars and restaurants are also being told to close, while travel into and out of Auckland will be restricted to those returning home to the city, or those leaving who live elsewhere.

Police are due to issue further information on the use of roadblocks around Auckland on Wednesday.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 22: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern makes an exit after a press conference at Parliament on July 22, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the dismissal of Iain Lees-Galloway as a minister over an inappropriate relationship with a former staffer.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
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Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had learned to ‘go hard and go early’ with restrictions

Announcing the restrictions will be in place for three days until midnight on Friday, Ms Ardern said: “One of the most important lessons we’ve learned from overseas is the need to go hard and go early.

“And stamp out flare-ups to avoid the risk of wider outbreak.

“As disruptive as it is, a strong and rapid health response remains the best long-term economic response.

“In line with our precautionary approach, we will be asking Aucklanders to take swift action with us.”

She added: “These three days will give us time to assess the situation, gather information, make sure we have widespread contact tracing so we can find out more about how this case arose and make decisions on how to respond to it once we have further information.”

The rest of New Zealand will be moved to “Level Two” restrictions from midday on Wednesday, Ms Ardern announced.

Earlier on Tuesday, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported a retirement village in Christchurch, the largest city on the country’s South Island, had gone into lockdown after residents displayed symptoms of respiratory illness.

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In other developments, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world has reached 20 million.

The milestone – based on a count by the Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the development of the pandemic – was reached in the early hours of Tuesday.

Experts believe the real figure of worldwide cases is much higher due to testing limitations and the fact that as many as 40% of people infected have no symptoms.

 

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