New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered the country back into lockdown on Tuesday after discovering a single case of COVID-19.
Ardern announced that New Zealand’s Cabinet decided to raise the country’s COVID-19 threat level to Alert Level 4, under which public facilities, such as bars and restaurants, must close, and New Zealanders must stay home except for “essential personal movement.” The alert level also legally mandates that New Zealanders wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.
“We ask people to stay two meters away from anyone you pass, stay local, and do not congregate,” Ardern said in a press conference announcing the order. “Don’t talk to your neighbors. Please keep to your bubble.” (RELATED: ‘I Made A Mistake’: New Zealand Prime Minister Apologizes For Taking Selfie Without A Mask)
The lockdowns will last for a minimum of three days, except for the city of Auckland, home to the man who tested positive, which will be under lockdown for at least seven days. Officials may extend the country’s lockdowns depending on further assessments, Ardern said.
New Zealand imposed the lockdown after a 58-year-old man tested positive for the virus Monday. Health officials recommended nationwide restrictions as they could not trace the chain of transmission or connect the case to a foreign arrival.
“Because we cannot link the case to the border at this point, it is possible there are other cases around in Auckland and other possible chains of transmission,” Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General and Chief Executive of New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, said in the press conference.
It is not known yet whether the man tested positive for the delta variant, Bloomfield said, but health officials and political leadership assume he did.
“Delta has been called a game-changer, and it is,” Ardern said. “It means we need to again go hard and early to stop the spread.”
Since January 2020, 26 people have died in New Zealand from COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization, recording the most recent death in February 2021.
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