New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a three-day lockdown in the country’s biggest city Auckland, after three new local COVID-19 cases were reported, the first local infections since late January. Ardern said the level 3 restrictions, which require everyone to stay home except for essential shopping and essential work, repeating the super cautious approach the country has taken over the past year in virtually eliminating the pandemic.
New Zealand, which had gone more than two months without local infections 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. Restrictions were raised to level 3 for three days from Monday through Wednesday. That meant public venues would be shut, gatherings outside homes would be prohibited except for weddings and funerals, limited to 10 people. Children were also asked to stay home from school. The three cases reported earlier on Sunday were a couple and their daughter in Auckland, the first local cases since Jan. 24. Health authorities are still working to find out whether the cases involve one of the new highly infectious variants and how the family contracted the virus, Ardern said.
Health authorities are still working to find out whether the cases involve one of the new highly infectious variants and how the family contracted the virus, Ardern said. “Three days should give us enough time to gather further information, undertake large-scale testing and establish if there has been wider community transmission,” Ardern said.
New Zealand and Australia closed their international borders and introduced strict social distancing rules early in the pandemic, dramatically reducing the spread of the virus. New Zealand was ranked the best-performing nation in an index of almost 100 countries based on containment of the coronavirus.