New Zealand’s largest city was placed in lockdown after the country’s coronavirus-free status ended after more than 100 days with the detection of four cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called an urgent evening press conference with just a few minutes notice to announce the setback.
New Zealand has attracted attention with its model response to the pandemic, especially for its early and aggressive action. The country has 1,574 confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19, with 22 deaths.
Now, after 102 days of no community transmission, four cases were registered within one family in Auckland.
“I know this information will be very hard to receive,” Ardern said.
Officials have not yet been able to establish where the cases had come from.
“While we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario, we have also planned and prepared for it,” she said.
Auckland residents would now move to a level three lockdown, meaning schools and non-essential businesses would close and people would need to stay home.
The rest of the country would move to a lighter level of lockdown, with gatherings of more than 100 people prohibited.
“I am asking the team of 5 million to stand ready again,” Ardern said of New Zealand’s population.
The lockdowns would last three days, starting at midday Wednesday until midnight Friday.
“It was inevitable that NZ would get more cases of community transmission. This is a tricky virus,” director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff urged residents to “come together” for the lockdown.
“I understand that people are probably feeling a little bit scared, a little angry and a little confused right now. None of us wanted to go back into lockdown, but we always knew this was a very real possibility.”