New Zealand authorities announced a nationwide lockdown on Tuesday after its largest city, Auckland, reported the country’s first local Covid-19 case in nearly six months, posing a threat to the country’s successful ‘zero-Covid’ strategy that has so far managed to keep the more infectious delta variant of the virus at bay.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Auckland and the town of Coromandel will enter a seven-day lockdown while the rest of the country will be locked for the next three days.
The new case has triggered ‘Alert Level 4’—the highest pandemic alert level across the country, which means a stringent stay-at-home order is put in place with all physical contact being limited to household members.
While the single case has not been confirmed as a delta variant case, Ardern said the authorities are working under the presumption that it has been caused by the highly infectious variant.
The 58-year-old man who tested positive isn’t vaccinated and over the weekend he and his fully vaccinated wife traveled to the small town of Coromandel—located on the western side of New Zealand’s North Island.
Authorities said they have identified 23 locations of interest—10 in Auckland and 13 in Coromandel—visited by the man while he was infectious.
The source of the man’s infection is yet to be identified as he has no obvious link to any cases reported at New Zealand’s borders, raising fears that there may be other undetected cases spreading in the community.
22.9%. That’s the percentage of eligible people in New Zealand who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a total of 934,207 people, according to official government data. While the number is significantly lower than other developed nations, the country’s vaccine rollout has begun gathering pace, trending slightly ahead of the government’s projections.
With measures such as having one of the strictest border restrictions, quarantining of all incoming travelers and strong contact tracing, New Zealand has emerged as one of the pandemic’s success stories so far. New Zealand has only reported 2,926 Covid-19 cases and 26 deaths since the start of the pandemic, with a large number of those cases being detected at the border and isolated. This has allowed the country to effectively stomp out the local spread of the virus, eliminating the need for dragged-out lockdowns and other Covid measures. But the country’s relatively sluggish vaccine rollout may put its early success in danger if the more infectious delta variant manages to gain a foothold in the community. New Zealand’s trans-Tasman neighbor Australia—which had also managed to largely stomp out the local spread of Covid, is currently witnessing one of its worst outbreaks of the pandemic, largely fueled by the delta variant. Last week, New Zealand authorities announced plans to reopen the country’s borders to foreign travelers with more lenient quarantine measures in place for fully vaccinated individuals from low-risk countries. But the reopening of its borders is likely to make it much harder for the country’s government to pursue a ‘zero-Covid’ strategy.