New Zealand, on Tuesday, reported four new cases of the coronavirus after 102 days of being virus-free. On Wednesday, 13 new cases were reported, most of them related to the 4 cases reported on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a statement said, “We can see the seriousness of the situation we are in.” “Once again we are reminded of how tricky this virus is and how easily it can spread,” she added.
Ardern reimposed tight movement restrictions in Auckland and social distancing measures across the rest of the country on Wednesday measures similar to the steps she took when the pandemic first broke out in New Zealand, which was praised for its effectiveness. Ardern said that experience showed “things will get worse before they get better”, and more cases were likely to be reported in coming days.
Ardern added that it was a positive sign that all the new 13 cases were linked back to the infected family, either via work or broader family connections. Currently, there are 36 positive cases in the country.
Health experts have suggested that the virus had been spreading quietly in Auckland for weeks and probably has infected dozens of people already. Auckland residents have been asked to stay at home unless it is for essential trips. Schools, childcare centres and other non-essential businesses in Auckland have closed.
The restrictions are to remain in place until Friday when Ardern will announce the next steps. With an election scheduled just weeks away, she was facing criticism from the major opposition party for the decision to resume lockdown measures.
Ardern said she will decide on the upcoming polls on Monday. Director-general of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said all active cases would now be required to enter government-managed quarantine. Previously, positive cases were able to be quarantined at home. Authorities are trying to find the source of the outbreak that caused a family of four to be tested positive on Tuesday, which eventually led to the current cluster.