Auckland’s lockdown has been extended as the coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand continues to grow.
The lockdown in Auckland and the restrictions across the country will remain for another 12 days, taking the Level 3 lockdown for the city to two full weeks.
Earlier Friday it was revealed Auckland's COVID-19 cluster has grown to at least 30 people.
“Thirty-eight people linked to the cluster are now in government managed quarantine as a precautionary measure,” New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said on Friday afternoon, following a national cabinet meeting.
“We have undertaken more than 30,000 tests in the last 48 hours,” she said.
Ms Ardern revealed that the the earliest case they have found through tracing was located at Mt Wellington – the location of the Americold cold storage warehouse in Auckland – involving a worker who became sick on approximately July 31.
“This may not yet be the origin of the outbreak, but on the information we have today, it's the earliest sign of the reemergence of the virus,” she said.
“In terms of the ongoing investigation to identify where the virus originated from, there are still no clear connections at this point.”
No link between new cluster and quarantined arrivals
“Contact tracing and genomic testing has not found a link to the border or managed isolation in quarantine facilities at this stage,” Ms Ardern said.
The sequence of the virus from the current outbreak in the country is not the same as the sequences from community cases in New Zealand’s original outbreak earlier this year.
“This suggests this is not a case of the virus being dormant or of a burning ember in our community. This is new,” she said. The source, however, still remains unclear.
New Zealand announced 12 new coronavirus cases on Friday afternoon (local time) and one further probable case, while hundreds of churchgoers were also warned to get tested after they were possibly exposed.
Two of the new cases were detected in the Waikato town of Tokoroa, 200km from Auckland.
A further two new coronavirus cases revealed Friday have been linked to the Americold factory in Auckland, with the outbreak there climbing to 13.
Positive tests have been recorded at four schools and at least two businesses, as officials deploy a "rapid response" contact tracing effort.
All cases are linked to the Auckland family cluster detected on Tuesday night, which brought the country’s 102-day streak of no community transmission of the novel coronavirus to a surprise end.
Health authorities expect the cluster to grow.
“It will grow before it slows. And it may continue to be linked to schools, churches and social gatherings, as it has done to date,” Ms Ardern said.
The country was a global anomaly enjoying restriction-free living, but the first community outbreak in more than three months has plunged New Zealanders back into the clutches of the pandemic.
Speaking to The Project New Zealand on Thursday, the country’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson said there was no plans to move to Level 4 lockdown in Auckland at that time.
"We’ve got no plans to go to level 4 at this stage. As long as everyone does the right thing in Auckland, at level 3 and around the rest of the country in level 2, then we should be able to get on top of this outbreak," he said.
Ms Ardern reiterated that point late Friday saying “there is nothing to suggest” there is a need for Auckland to move to Level 4 restrictions.
Despite cases outside Auckland, she also ruled out Level 3 restrictions for the entire North Island. Everywhere outside Auckland is in Level 2, which enforces social distancing and reduces the size of gatherings.
Auckland wary of Melbourne’s experience
Auckland’s mayor Phil Goff said his city will take lessons from the outbreak seen in Melbourne in recent months.
“Melbourne’s experience shows us that if we don’t take that approach, COVID’s spread can be rampant, with a big cost on human well-being and lives,” he said.
“In the end an even stricter lockdown becomes necessary, which has high economic costs as well.”
A highly anticipated final rugby match of the season between the Christchurch-based Crusaders and the Auckland Blues, due to be held in the city this weekend, has been cancelled.
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