After A Single Viral Case Was Discovered, New Zealand’s Government Was Placed On Lockdown

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — After discovering a single instance of coronavirus infection in the community, New Zealand’s government took dramatic measures Tuesday, placing the whole country under lockdown for at least three days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern resurrected some of her rousing rhetoric from earlier in the epidemic, asking the “team of 5 million” — New Zealand’s population — to go all out to stop the new outbreak.

“We’ve seen what happens when we don’t get on top of it abroad,” Ardern added. “We just have one shot.”

She said Auckland, where the sick guy resides, and Coromandel, where he had visited, would be put on full lockdown for seven days, and the rest of the nation for three days, while health officials sought to figure out where the virus came from.

People queued outside stores to stock up on necessities, and the New Zealand dollar fell sharply in value as a result of the events.

The virus had been eradicated in New Zealand, with the last recent occurrence occurring in February. However, Ardern had warned that the delta variant’s contagiousness would likely necessitate more extreme measures than in past outbreaks.

New Zealand has also been slower to inoculate its people than other industrialized countries, leaving it vulnerable to epidemics. Only 32% of people have gotten at least one vaccination, and only 18% are completely immunized.

Officials are also concerned about a developing epidemic in neighboring Sydney, saying they don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by waiting too long to apply stringent restrictions.

Health authorities said genetic testing would not confirm if the sick 58-year-old man had the delta variation until Wednesday, but they were assuming he had.

Officials said they couldn’t quickly make a link between the guy and the few others who had tested positive after being quarantined after returning from abroad. The most likely cause of any epidemics is thought to be the border.

The decision to the most severe lockdown highlighted New Zealand’s very different approach to the virus than most other countries, which are seeking to contain rather than remove it altogether.

Since the pandemic began, New Zealand has only recorded 26 viral fatalities.

The lockdown will go into force at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. It requires individuals to stay at home and avoid social situations. Most individuals can only leave to do grocery shopping or exercise. The country’s vaccination program had been ramping up, but owing to the epidemic, it has been halted for two days.

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