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New Zealand rules out COVID-19 outbreak links to freight or frozen items

New Zealand rules out COVID-19 outbreak links to freight or frozen items

Testing being conducted by health workers at a COVID-19 testing station setup at Eden Park, National Sports Stadium, in Auckland on Aug 14, 2020. (Photo: AFP/David Rowland)

WELLINGTON: New Zealand on Tuesday (Aug 18) ruled out the possibility that a COVID-19 outbreak in its biggest city of Auckland came from frozen food items or freight, as it reported 13 new cases.

Investigations suggested the virus had not come through chilled services or material arriving from overseas at an Americold cold-storage facility in Auckland where one of the recently infected individuals worked, health officials said.

READ: New Zealand PM Ardern postpones general election until Oct 17

"Seems clear now that the possibility is being ruled out from that investigation," director general of health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters.

The origin of the latest outbreak is still unknown, and transmission through the environment in the cold storage was one theory being considered.


Auckland, home to nearly a third of New Zealand's 5 million people, remains in lockdown due to a flare up in infections there. 

Twelve of the new cases are linked to the existing virus cluster in Auckland, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said in a media briefing in Wellington.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 90, of which 69 were linked to the outbreak in Auckland.

New Zealand has so far recorded just under 1,300 confirmed cases and 22 deaths.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced that the country's general election will be postponed by four weeks to Oct 17 as it tackles the new outbreak of the virus. 

The election was initially scheduled to be held on Sep 19. 

Pressure had been mounting on Ardern to postpone the vote amid the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in its biggest city Auckland, after the country had been free of coronavirus cases for 102 days.

New Zealand has fared far better than most countries during the pandemic but the abrupt resurgence of cases prompted Ardern to extend a lockdown for the city's 1.7 million residents until Aug 26, while social distancing rules are in place in other towns and cities.

The origin of the new outbreak is still unknown. 

Authorities said previously that it could have been through an Americold cold-storage facility where one of the infected individuals worked.

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