New Zealand in coronavirus lockdown as UK variant cases found
WELLINGTON (NEW ZEALANS) – A coronavirus outbreak, which involved the more transmissible UK variant, sent New Zealand’s biggest city into a snap lockdown over the weekend, health officials confirmed on Monday. This is the first time the strain has been detected locally.
Auckland’s nearly 2 million residents were subjected to a new three-day lockdown on Sunday after three new COVID-19 cases were found in the city.
Genome sequencing of two of the cases, all three are immediate family, revealed that it carried the B1.1.7 variant. The source of the cases, however, unknown, authorities said, adding that scanning of international genome databases for a match are being done.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Facebook Live post on Monday, “We were absolutely right to make the decision to be extra cautious because we assumed it was going to be one of the more transmissible variants. ”
The Auckland lockdown is the first such incident in New Zealand in six months, after a hard shutdown during early part of the pandemic appeared to have largely prevented local transmission. The country emerged as the best performing nation in an index by Australia’s Lowy Institute of almost 100 countries, determined by how efficiently it handled the coronavirus.
The fresh outbreak forced neighbouring Australia to suspend an arrangement, which allowed New Zealanders to enter Australia without having to follow a 14-day hotel quarantine period.
New Zealand’s health department said on Monday there were no new cases of community transmission, however, five already are in managed isolation facilities.
The country has reported a total of 2,330 confirmed and probable cases since the start of the pandemic, including 25 deaths. Forty-seven cases remained active, health officials said on Monday.
In Auckland, long queues formed outside supermarkets after Sunday’s announcement as people were trying to pile up goods ahead of the implementation of the order.