Asia Minute: New Zealand Faces New Covid-19 Cases

Aug 12, 2020

New Zealand has been one of the most successful countries in the world in dealing with COVID-19. But for the first time in more than a hundred days, the country has what government officials call “evidence of domestic transmission” of the virus. And the reaction has been swift.

As of noon, local time today, residents of New Zealand’s biggest city are restricted in their movements. It’s what the government calls an “alert level 3” — people in Auckland are required to work from home if they can.

Schools are closed, so are bars and restaurants, along with gyms, pools, and most retail operations except for grocery stores and drug stores.

The rest of the country is on looser restrictions – “alert level 2” — including social distancing and face coverings in public.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the restrictions in place for at least three days following the discovery of four family members infected with coronavirus.

Radio New Zealand reported that Tuesday night police were setting up roadblocks around the city to restrict movement, while supermarkets were starting to ration the sale of some staples.

Health officials say the rapid and sharp reaction shows the country’s determination to stop any potential spread — although the source of the virus remains a mystery. The Director General of Health said, “we are working hard to put together pieces of the puzzle on how this family got infected.”

Reuters reports officials are investigating whether the virus may have come in by way of imported freight.

Prime Minister Ardern called the situation “unsettling” and asked residents to “Stay kind” and “look after one another.”