Four cases confirmed in one household
New Zealand is no longer virus free, with four cases confirmed from one household in Auckland.
The cases have no known source and authorities are working to figure out where the family contracted coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland would return to stage three restrictions for three days starting from midday (2PM AEST) today.
Ardern and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield announced the news while an alert was sent to New Zealanders’ phones.
The rest of the country will return to stage two for thee days until midnight Friday.
“I know this information will be difficult to receive,” she said.
“We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again but we had also prepared for it.”
Ms Ardern said people in Auckland would have to wear a mask when accessing essential services, while people in the rest of the country would have to don face coverings when social distancing was not possible.
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The cases had no connection to overseas travel.
The first case confirmed was a person in their 50s who presented to their GP with symptoms yesterday.
The man had strong symptoms including a fever and a cough, and the man’s partner also had strong symptoms, Bloomfield said.
There were five days from symptom onset until they were tested, he said, which was why close contacts were being followed up.
Ardern said more information would be shared, but privacy issues needed to be considered.
Health Ministry chief executive Dr Ashley Bloomfield said authorities sprung into action and tested the rest of the family.
Of the six other family members tested, three were positive and the others returned negative results.
They remain in their home for now but Ardern said moving them to a quarantine facility was being considered.
He said close contacts were being tested and had gone into self-isolation. Casual contacts have also gone into self-isolation.
Dr Bloomfield said it was inevitable the virus was going to return to the country.
“This is a tricky virus,” he said.
“The cases are a wake up call for any complacency that may have set in. The important thing now is that we stop the spread of the virus in the community. We need to stamp it out.”
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Ms Ardern said more than one workplace was involved and it was likely it wasn’t just one suburb alone in Auckland affected.
She said the most important thing to do was find the origin of the cases.
“There is no immediate link we have found, as yet, to a managed isolation facility, and there is no connection to a high risk person, such as those who work at the border,” she said.
Workers at the border are also being tested.
RETURN OF RESTRICTIONS
Those in Auckland will have to work from home unless they are an essential service worker.
Schools will only open for students who have parents who are essential workers.
Public facilities, bars, restaurants and businesses must close by midday tomorrow.
People can only leave the house for essential services.
Gatherings of more than 10 people are restricted.
For the rest of the country, mass gatherings will be limited to 100 people.
Ms Ardern said the three-day restrictions would give authorities time to assess the situation.
“We’re asking people in Auckland to stay home to stop the spread,” she said.
“Act as if you have COVID, and as though people around you have COVID.
“We have come too far to go backwards.”
EARLY SUCCESS STORY
Australia rejoiced when New Zealand declared it had no active coronavirus cases on June 8 because it meant a trans-Tasman travel bubble would become more likely.
The country lifted all coronavirus restrictions except its international border control.
Eliminating coronavirus in the community was something most health experts thought was impossible.
The first case of coronavirus in New Zealand was confirmed on February 28 and the government enacted its pandemic response plan.
On March 26, the country entered a total lockdown.
Schools were closed, all non-essential businesses were shutdown, people had to work from home, travel was restricted and social gatherings of any kind were banned.
Ms Ardern declared a national emergency, giving authorities new powers to enforce the strict control measures.
Kiwis essentially went inside their homes and didn’t venture out again for four long weeks.
It was a bold strategy that represented the strongest response to the COVID-19 pandemic almost anywhere in the world.
NEW ZEALAND REACTS
People were quick to react to the news tonight coronavirus had returned to the country, with most welcoming the return of restrictions.
Many said they were thankful for their fact acting government, praising Ms Ardern for her swift response.
“Jacinda is not messing around,” they wrote on Twitter.
While Ms Ardern warned people not to race to supermarkets, people are already reporting huge line ups.
— Additional reporting by Amelia Wade and Derek Cheng, NZ Herald