New Zealand imposes 3-day lockdown on Auckland after 3 new local COVID-19 cases

New Zealand imposes 3-day lockdown on Auckland after 3 new local COVID-19 cases

New Zealand's COVID-19 safety measure mandating masks on public transport takes effect in Auck
A man walks by a social distancing sign on the first day of New Zealand's new COVID-19 safety measure that mandates wearing of a mask on public transport, in Auckland, New Zealand, on Aug 31, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Fiona Goodall)

AUCKLAND: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday (Feb 14) announced a three-day lockdown in the country's biggest city Auckland, after three new local COVID-19 cases were reported.

Ardern said the level 3 restrictions, which require everyone to stay home except for essential shopping and essential work, will be implemented, repeating the cautious approach the country has taken over the past year in stamping out the pandemic.

The three new COVID-19 cases are the country's first since Jan 24, when a returned traveller tested positive after leaving quarantine.

New Zealand's minister for COVID-19 response, Chris Hipkins, said the three cases were a couple and their daughter in Auckland, and that genomic testing was being conducted to see if the family's infection was linked to any highly infectious variants.

"Our system has swung into action," Hipkins told a hastily called media conference. "We are gathering all of the facts as quickly as we can. And the system that's served us so well in the past is really gearing up to do so again."

READ: WHO warns against COVID-19 complacency, variants provoke new measures

New Zealand – which had gone more than two months without infection before the January case – is to start inoculating its 5 million people against the new coronavirus on Feb 20, after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier than anticipated.

Health authorities are still working to find out how the family contracted the virus and "whether COVID-19 could be out there in the community ... or whether this is the start of what could be a chain of transmission", Hipkins said.

As a precaution, the high school of the girl in the family will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, with COVID-19 testing facilities to be set up there, officials said.

Airlines have also been contacted, as the woman in the infected family works for an airline catering company, LSG Sky Chefs, where she mostly works in the laundry facilities, they said. 

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