New Zealand to lock down Auckland as coronavirus returns after 102 days

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New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed four new locally transmitted coronavirus cases and announced that Auckland will temporarily see level three restrictions introduced for three days starting from midday on Wednesday. — Courtesy photo
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed four new locally transmitted coronavirus cases and announced that Auckland will temporarily see level three restrictions introduced for three days starting from midday on Wednesday. — Courtesy photo

WELLINGTON — New Zealand has put Auckland, the largest city, back into lockdown after recording new coronavirus cases, snapping a 102-day streak without a local infection.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed four new locally transmitted coronavirus cases and announced that Auckland will temporarily see level three restrictions introduced for three days starting from midday on Wednesday.

The prime minister said the rest of the country would move to level two of New Zealand's 4-tier alert system of measures against coronavirus.

"This is something we have prepared for," Ardern said on Tuesday night at a news conference.

"We have had 102 days and it was easy to feel New Zealand was out of the woods. No country has gone as far as we did without having a resurgence. And because we were the only ones, we had to plan. And we have planned," she said.

The four new cases are all members of a single family and authorities are scrambling to trace contacts of the family.

As part of the restrictions, Auckland residents will be asked to stay at home, large gatherings will be banned, non-essential businesses will be shut, and some social-distancing restrictions will be reintroduced in the rest of the country.

Before Tuesday, New Zealand had gone 102 days without recording a locally transmitted case of Covid-19, one of the few countries to reach such a milestone.

All 22 active cases of the virus before Tuesday's announcement were among returning travelers quarantined in isolation facilities.

Commended internationally for its handling of the pandemic, the New Zealand government led by PM Ardern had lifted almost all of its lockdown restrictions, first imposed in March.

An early lockdown, tough border restrictions, effective health messaging and an aggressive test-and-trace program have all been credited with virtually eliminating the virus in the country.

But as infections continue to rise across the world, surpassing 20 million globally on Tuesday, New Zealand officials have warned against complacency. — Agencies


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