Coronavirus Australia: New Zealand plunged into three-day lockdown over one case

New Zealand has been plunged into a snap lockdown after a single mystery Covid case was found in Auckland, the nation’s first locally-acquired case since February.

The entire country will enter a three-day Level Four lockdown from 11.59pm Tuesday, while Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula will suffer under the rules for at least a week.

Kiwis will be locked in their homes for all but essential reasons, with businesses forced to shut and masks mandatory whenever a person leaves the house. 

A 58-year-old Auckland man, who is unvaccinated, tested positive on Tuesday and is believed to have been infectious for the last five days. He had travelled with his wife to Coromandel — which is on the east of the North Island — at the weekend.

The case is being assumed to be infected with the highly contagious Indian Delta strain until genome testing results come back on Wednesday. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged the country to follow the rules ‘to the letter’ amid fears the highly-transmissible variant could undermine New Zealand’s brutal ‘zero-Covid’ strategy.

She referred to neighbouring Australia’s difficulty in controlling the spread of the virus when she addressed the nation on Tuesday night.  

The strain is already piling pressure on hospitals in Australia, which has deployed a similar economically-crippling elimination strategy. 

Politicians claim the situation is the worst the nation has faced since the start of the pandemic — even though it is much less severe than the darkest spells of outbreaks in Britain and America. 

New Zealand’s sluggish vaccine rollout leaves it particularly susceptible to a deadly outbreak, with only 17 per cent of the entire population fully vaccinated. Australia is also lagging behind (21 per cent). 

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern (pictured addressing the nation) has announced the country will go into lockdown from 11.59pm Tuesday

New Zealand and Australia have seen very few Covid cases per capita, one of the benefits of pursuing 'zero Covid' policies - despite leaving multi-billion dollar holes in their economies. But there are signs Australia's crisis could spike in the coming weeks amid the spread of the viciously infectious Delta variant, which has raised fears in New Zealand

New Zealand and Australia have seen very few Covid cases per capita, one of the benefits of pursuing ‘zero Covid’ policies – despite leaving multi-billion dollar holes in their economies. But there are signs Australia’s crisis could spike in the coming weeks amid the spread of the viciously infectious Delta variant, which has raised fears in New Zealand

But the nations have lagged behind the West in terms of vaccinations, with New Zealand only fully inoculating 17 per cent of its population compared to 21 per cent in Australia. The UK, on the other hand, has seen more than 60 per cent of the total population jabbed. Note: The percentage totals look at the entire populations, even children who are not being routinely vaccinated

But the nations have lagged behind the West in terms of vaccinations, with New Zealand only fully inoculating 17 per cent of its population compared to 21 per cent in Australia. The UK, on the other hand, has seen more than 60 per cent of the total population jabbed. Note: The percentage totals look at the entire populations, even children who are not being routinely vaccinated

The tough and controversial 'zero Covid' policy adopted by the Australasian countries have, however, resulted in very few deaths

The tough and controversial ‘zero Covid’ policy adopted by the Australasian countries have, however, resulted in very few deaths

‘Delta has been called a game changer and it is, it means that we again need to go hard and early to stop the spread,’ she said. 

‘We’ve seen elsewhere what can happen if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance.’

‘We have made the decision on the basis that it is better to start high and go down levels rather than to go low, not contain the virus and see it move quickly.’ 

NEW ZEALAND’S LEVEL FOUR LOCKDOWN – EXPLAINED

*From 11:59pm Tuesday, Kiwis can only leave home to shop for groceries, get medical care, get a COVID-19 test, exercise in their local area or go to work if they’re an essential worker or cannot work from home.

*Can only have physical contact with those in their household bubble and keep a minimum two metre distance from others when leaving the house

*If you live alone, you may arrange with another person living alone or a household to be part of your household bubble

*Those over-70s or have underlying health conditions should stay at home and ask others to pick up supplies for them

*Supermarkets, dairies, pharmacies and petrol station will remain open but all non-essential services will close, including bottle shops and takeaway outlets

* All schools and early childhood education centres are closed

*Covid-19 vaccinations have been suspended for the next 48 hours 

*If you are travelling away from home, you have up to 48 hours to get home

‘We’ve seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries, not at least our neighbours. 

‘I’m asking the team of five million to unite once more to defeat what is likely the more transmissible and deadly variant of the virus.

‘Remember to always act like you have Covid-19, stay clear of others; don’t put them in harm’s way in the same way you would expect that they don’t put you in harm’s way.’

Under the highest Level Four restrictions, Kiwis can only leave their homes for exercise in their neighbourhood, getting groceries, medical care or getting a test.

They must wear a mask whenever they leave the house and keep a two metre distance from those other than household members. 

‘The simplest thing New Zealanders can do to reduce the spread of virus is to stay at home. Beating Delta means lifting our game,’ Ms Ardern said.

All schools and non-essential businesses such as supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations will shut down for the duration of lockdown, while Covid-19 vaccinations have been suspended for the next 48 hours.

The announcement sparked chaos in supermarkets the country as Kiwis scrambled to the shops to stock up on essentials. 

Kiwis travelling in other parts of the country have been given 48 hours to return home. 

Health officials are now trying to identify how the man from Auckland’s north shore became infected, which at this stage shows there is no immediate link to any high-risk settings. 

He was unvaccinated but was in the process of booking an appointment to get the jab.

‘A link between the case and the border or managed isolation is yet to be established,’ the Ministry of Health said.

‘While we collect more specific information all New Zealanders are reminded of the basic public health measures of mask wearing and hand washing.’

The level lockdown will last for at least seven days in Auckland, where the mystery case emerged. Pictured is a testing clinic in Auckland

The level lockdown will last for at least seven days in Auckland, where the mystery case emerged. Pictured is a testing clinic in Auckland

NZ Health officials are now scrambling to identify the new case which at this stage has no immediate link to any high-risk settings (pictured, masked pedestrians in Auckland)

NZ Health officials are now scrambling to identify the new case which at this stage has no immediate link to any high-risk settings (pictured, masked pedestrians in Auckland)

The Coromandel Peninsula (pictured) will be in lockdown for seven days after the infected man visited the region last weekend

The Coromandel Peninsula (pictured) will be in lockdown for seven days after the infected man visited the region last weekend

New Zealand's Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government's response to an outbreak of the Delta variant is likely to be 'swift and severe' (pictured, medical staff test people in their car at drive-through clinic in Wellington)

New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government’s response to an outbreak of the Delta variant is likely to be ‘swift and severe’ (pictured, medical staff test people in their car at drive-through clinic in Wellington)

Ten Auckland exposure sites have been listed with another 13 in Coromandel, which is 180km away from the main city..

The new case is the first New Zealand has recorded since February.

University of Auckland COVID-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy urged  Aucklanders to take precautions and assume they have been exposed to the virus.

‘If there is a link to the border, then there is a chance we’ve caught this outbreak at an early stage. If not, then there will be more cases out there. In either case we should be prepared for an Alert Level change in Auckland, if not other parts of the country,’ Hendy tweeted.

New Zealand has reported just 26 deaths and 2,570 cases of Covd-19 since the pandemic began in early 2020. 

Ms Ardern announced an eight week suspension of New Zealand’s travel bubble with the entirety of Australia on July 23, after the NSW outbreak began to spread to other states. She will announce a further update on Wednesday afternoon. 

New Zealand and Australia were hailed as the ‘envy of the world’ after seemingly managing to suppress the virus and pursue a ‘zero Covid’ strategy.

In doing so the countries had to enforce some of the strictest border measures in the world, leaving a multi-billion dollar hole in their economies and the tourism industry in ruins. 

But it allowed their populations to continue life largely as normal while the rest of the world lost their basic freedoms – with restaurants, bars, nightclubs and sporting events operating at full capacity.

However, the success of the zero Covid strategy could now be undermined by abysmal vaccine rollouts in both Australia and New Zealand and the Delta variant. 

The low vaccination rates have given the highly-infectious Delta variant – more than twice as virulent as the original Covid virus – the opportunity to spread with free reign, with cases rising fivefold in Australia in recent weeks. 

Australia and New Zealand managed to suppress Covid while the rest of the world battled perpetual lockdowns… but now even the pariahs are being hit by the Delta variant thanks to abysmal jab rollouts

Australia and New Zealand were hailed as the ‘envy of the world’ after seemingly managing to suppress the virus and pursue a ‘zero Covid’ strategy.

In doing so the countries had to enforce some of the strictest border measures in the world, leaving a multi-billion dollar hole in their economies and the tourism industry in ruins. 

But it allowed their populations to continue life largely as normal while the rest of the world lost their basic freedoms – with restaurants, bars, nightclubs and sporting events operating at full capacity.

However, the success of the zero Covid strategy could now be undermined by abysmal vaccine rollouts in both Australia and New Zealand.

Just 21 per cent of the population in Australia has been doubled-jabbed and 17 per cent are fully protected in New Zealand – compared to more than 60 per cent in Britain.

 

The low vaccination rates have given the highly-infectious Delta variant – more than twice as virulent as the original Covid virus – the opportunity to spread with free reign, with cases rising fivefold in Australia in a month. 

However, the nation’s Covid situation is still a far cry from levels seen elsewhere in the West, including the UK.

Figures compiled by Oxford University-backed researchers show about 400 people out of every 1million are testing positive for the virus every day in the UK.

In contrast, the rate stands at just 16 in Australia. It’s even lower (1.07) in New Zealand, according to Our World in Data.  

The Delta variant, which was first identified in India, is thought to behind the recent uptick in Australia. At the beginning of June, it was linked with just 19 per cent of cases, but this jumped to 90 per cent by July 12.

New Zealand has not published data on its virus sequencing, so it is unclear how prevalent the more infectious strain is in the country.   

The sacrifices made by millions of Australians and New Zealanders – including not seeing family abroad for more than a year due to border closures – could be in vain if the countries do not get a grip on their crises.

In Britain, and most of Europe, ministers have constantly strived to keep borders open, even to their detriment. 

Last spring the UK’s huge death toll was blamed on allowing thousands of travellers to return from Italy and Spain, where the virus was rife.

More recently, Boris Johnson was lambasted for his decision not to stop travel from India despite a devastating wave of the Delta variant crippling major hospitals there. 

The UK went on to become the next epicentre for the highly infectious Delta variant. 

Australia and New Zealand have also opted for strict city-wide lockdowns at the first sign of community transmission of the virus, even if there have only been a handful of cases. 

In Britain, by contrast, there has been staunch opposition to lockdowns which has seen the government try much looser locally targeted curbs.   

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