2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk past a social distancing sign in Auckland, New Zealand, August 31, 2020 2/2
By Lidia Kelly MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Exactly one year after New Zealand recorded its first coronavirus case, the country’s largest city Auckland woke up to a second lockdown on Sunday this month as health authorities try to control a group one of the most contagious. UK variant. The seven-day closure of the city of nearly 2 million, announced Saturday night by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was triggered by the case of a person who had been contagious for a week but had not been isolated. “It is more than likely that there will be additional cases in the community,” Ardern said at a televised news conference, although no new cases were reported Sunday. The lockdown follows a three-day stay-at-home order in mid-February after a local outbreak of the UK variant of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Currently there are about 14 cases linked to the group. “Despite our best efforts to date, recent cases have worked when they shouldn’t have,” Ardern said. Opposition leader Judith Collins called for tougher penalties against those who do not follow public health advice on isolation. “Nobody wants to go in and out of the confinement,” Collins said in a statement. The new lock, with Level 3 restrictions, allows people to leave home only for essential work and purchases. Public places will remain closed. Restrictions in the rest of the country will tighten to Level 2, including limits on public gatherings. The measures have complicated several planned high-visibility sporting events in Auckland. Organizers of the America’s Cup yacht race said Sunday that the Italy-New Zealand head-to-head final that was due to start on March 6 was postponed to at least March 10. New Zealand’s fourth Twenty20 International cricket match against Australia was moved to Wellington where it will be played behind closed doors on Friday. Some social media users around the world expressed dismay at the strong response that would block a large city for a single case, and one Twitter user wrote: “They are crazy.” However, it has been attributed to the swift public health measures often implemented last year, combined with aggressive contact tracking and border closures, making New Zealand highly successful in preventing the pandemic from coronavirus to spread. New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has recorded just over 2,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 26 deaths.