New Zealand to enter lockdown after single virus case found
New Zealand's government took drastic action on Tuesday by putting the entire nation into strict lockdown for at least three days after finding a single case of coronavirus infection in the community. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invoked some of the stirring rhetoric she used early in the pandemic by urging the people to go hard and early in trying to eliminate the latest outbreak.
Auckland and Coromandel to enter full lockdown for seven days
"We have seen what happens elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance," Ardern said. She said Auckland, where the infected man lives, and Coromandel, where he had visited, would go into a full lockdown for seven days and remainder of the country for three days while health experts tried to find the source of his infection.
The last outbreak in New Zealand was in February
The developments prompted people to line up outside supermarkets to stock up on essential items and sparked a sharp drop in the value of the New Zealand dollar. New Zealand had managed to stamp out COVID-19, and the last outbreak was in February. But Ardern had been warning that the contagiousness of the delta variant would likely require more drastic action than previous outbreaks.
New Zealand has also been slower to inoculate its population
New Zealand has also been slower than other developed nations to inoculate its population, leaving it vulnerable to outbreaks. Only 32 percent of people have had at least one shot and 18 percent are fully vaccinated.
Officials believe the infected man had the delta variant
Officials have been viewing a growing outbreak in nearby Sydney with alarm, saying they don't want to make the same mistakes by waiting too long to impose strict measures. Health officials said genome testing would not verify until Wednesday whether the infected 58-year-old man had the delta variant, although they were working under the assumption he does.
Country has reported 26 virus deaths since the pandemic began
New Zealand has reported just 26 virus deaths since the pandemic began. The lockdown takes effect from just before midnight on Tuesday. It requires people to remain at home and avoid others. Most people can leave only to buy groceries or exercise. The nation's vaccination program had been accelerating but has been suspended for two days due to the outbreak.