New Zealand sees 14 new cases of coronavirus as officials strive to trace outbreak – National


New Zealand officials were scrambling to trace the source of a coronavirus outbreak, reporting 14 new cases on Thursday, as long lines of people formed to escape a new lockdown in the country’s largest city or be tested for the virus.The discovery of four infected family members in Auckland two days ago shocked a country that had not recorded a case of COVID-19 for more than three months, raising criticism over the government’s handling of the crisis .

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New Zealand announced Thursday that there were 13 new cases in the community and one overseas arrival that was in quarantine, bringing the total number of active cases to 36.

“We can see the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a televised press conference. “He is treated urgently but calm and methodically.”

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Ardern reimposed strict movement restrictions in Auckland and social distancing measures across the rest of the country on Wednesday, echoing its early response to the pandemic, which was hailed for its apparent effectiveness.

Ardern noted that experience has shown that “things will get worse before they get better” and that more cases will likely be reported in the coming days.

After 102 days without coronavirus, New Zealand reports 4 new cases

After 102 days without coronavirus, New Zealand reports 4 new cases

“Once again we are reminded how delicate this virus is and how easily it can spread,” she said. “Going hard and early is still the best solution.”

However, doubts about the origin of the latest cases have raised questions about this strategy.

Officials reported Thursday that three other people at a refrigerator storage facility, where one of the family members worked, had tested positive.

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Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said health officials were moving “every hour” to find patient zero in the outbreak.

“We are working hard to do the contact tracing that we need to do and trace to find out what the source of this infection is,” Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB radio.

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After 102 days without coronavirus, New Zealand reports 4 new cases

Bloomfield on Wednesday raised the possibility that the virus arrived in New Zealand by freight, given that one of the infected family members works at a cool store that takes frozen goods imported from overseas.

On Thursday, he said it was considered “a low possibility” but did not detail other potential sources.

Ardern said it was a positive sign that all 13 new cases were linked to the infected family, either through work or broader family relationships. All were transferred to quarantine facilities.

Some prominent local health experts have suggested that the virus has been more likely to spread quietly in Auckland for weeks, potentially infecting dozens of people.

Residents of Auckland, home to around 1.7 million people, had only a few hours to prepare for the return to Level 3 restrictions on Wednesday, forcing people to stay home except for essential travel.

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Coronavirus outbreak: New Zealand launches app to help people track their own movements

Residents of the city have reported waiting hours to be tested for the virus, according to local media, and supermarkets have rushed to stock up on essentials.

The rest of the country was put back into slightly looser Level 2 restrictions. The restrictions will initially remain in place until Friday, when Ardern will announce next steps.

With an election slated for just a few weeks, Ardern faced criticism from the main opposition party for the decision to resume lockdown measures.

The New Zealand National Party also wants the September elections to be pushed back to November. Ardern said she would make a decision on the ballot before Monday.

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