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New Zealand extends new lockdown measures

August 14, 2020

A fresh coronavirus outbreak this week has now spread beyond Auckland. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says 29 cases linked to the same cluster have been identified. But there is still "no clear idea" where it originated.

Medical workers test a man in Christchurch for coronavirus
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Baker

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Friday that fresh restrictions in the country's largest city Auckland would be extended for 12 days.

The discovery of four new COVID-19 cases earlier this week had ended New Zealand's 102-day run with no new transmissions. Since then, the outbreak has grown to 30 people and extended beyond Auckland.

In a press briefing, Ardern said the government:

  • would "extend a wage subsidy scheme;"
  • would "not move to level 4 alert at this stage;"
  • still had "no clear idea where the virus originated."
  • had not yet decided if elections currently set for September 19 will go ahead.

Ardern added that the fresh cluster would "grow before it slows," but that officials had found the outbreak "relatively early."

"Lifting restrictions now and seeing an explosion of new cases is the worst thing we could do for Auckland and our economy," she said.

Read more: How coronavirus pandemic has spurred change in Germany

Mysterious return

Thirteen new cases of the disease COVID-19 caused by the virus were reported in New Zealand on Friday, 12 of which could be traced back to the family in Auckland that tested positive on Tuesday. The origins of the other infection are currently unknown.

Although most of the cases have been found around Auckland, a city of 1.5 million people in the country's North Island, two were found in the town of Tokoroa, some 210 kilometers (130 miles) to the south.

Authorities are still seeking an explanation of how the virus has returned to the country, which seemed to have eradicated it by means of initial severe restrictions and strict quarantine rules for people entering.

Owing to the lockdown extension, the final game of the country's Super Rugby Aotearoa competition was canceled, with 43,000 ticket buyers disappointed. The match would have seen the Auckland Blues compete against the Canterbury Crusaders. The game will now be considered a draw, with both teams awarded two points, a statement from New Zealand Rugby said.

The country has reported a total of 1,251 cases of COVID-19, with 22 people having died of the disease.

tj/rt (AFP, Reuters)