After 102 consecutive days without any known cases of community transfer of COVID-19 in New Zealand, the country is greatly concerned by the family of four new cases which popped up in Auckland on Tuesday, August 11th. Within hours, under the direction of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Auckland was put back at stage three restrictions, which allow only essential travel outside the home with roadblocks to control travel to and from the city, and the slightly-less-restrictive stage two for the rest of the country.
“Going hard, going early with lockdown is still the best response,” said Ardern to the press. “Our response to the virus so far has worked … we know how to beat this.”
The new cases pose a significant threat – two of the four individuals traveled as tourists while symptomatic, and one went to work, also with symptoms. Four of the people they contacted are considered ‘likely’ new cases as well, and over 300 contacts have been identified. Medical officials are preparing to test tens of thousands of people before restrictions can ease again.
Currently, the best theory as to how these people were infected is the job where the fourth individual works, where he handles newly imported refrigerated freight. While there are no known cases of COVID-19 transmission from packaging, it has never been ruled out as a source, and contact-tracing has found no other obvious vector. Surface testing is being done where the man works, and all of his coworkers are being tested.
Roadblocks and stay-at-home orders over four cases may sound extreme, but New Zealand has been taking this disease more seriously than the rest of the world since before their first confirmed COVID-19 death. They were the first country to bring their new-cases rate to 0, and they have so far only seen 22 deaths. They know what they’re doing, and we should all be following suit.
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