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Jacinda Ardern announces NZ lockdown after mystery Covid outbreak

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Auckland will move to a Level Three alert after three members of a family tested positive for Covid-19, with another in managed quarantine.

From 11.59pm (local time) on Sunday, residents in Auckland will legally need to stay within their household bubble when not at work or at school as people are being encouraged to work from home and schools are only open for children of people who have to work.

Ms Ardern said the Level Three advice remains the same as it did in August last year.

"The main thing we are asking people in Auckland to do is to stay home to avoid any risk of spread,” she said.

“That means staying in your bubble, other than for essential personal movement. People should work from home unless that is not possible. If you go outside your home, please maintain physical distancing of two metres outside, or if you're in a controlled environment where you know others present, one metre.”

People wear face masks on public transport in Auckland.
People board a bus in Auckland. Source: Getty Images

"Do not invite or allow social visitors, such as friends, extended family and whānau, to enter your home," the New Zealand's Covid-19 website says.

Businesses will need to be contactless and customers cannot enter premises except if it is a "supermarket, dairy, butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, petrol station, pharmacy or permitted health service".

The rest of New Zealand will move to the Level Two alert.

"With the working assumption, just in case, it could be one of the more transmissible strains of Covid that we need to act with a high degree of caution around," Ms Ardern said.

"The most important lessons we've learned from the times that we have stamped out flare-ups successfully before, and from cases we've seen overseas where outbreaks have gotten away is the need to go hard and early."

Source of infection for family not known

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield announced on Sunday a mother, father and their daughter had returned the positive tests this weekend.

The source of their infection is not yet known.

Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said health officials were moving rapidly to trace, test and isolate close contacts.

"There is a number of gaps in our knowledge around these cases," he said.

"But we do have a plan for when things like this happen."

The pair spoke in an ominous tone in an earlier snap briefing on Sunday afternoon.

Ms Ardern cancelled her plans to attend Auckland Pride on Sunday and instead travelled to the capital to lead the response.

"There are still a lot of questions here... this is a precautionary measure," Mr Hipkins said.

"Having the prime minister in Wellington means we can make decisions quickly. At this stage we don't know whether we need to."

The Pullman Hotel is pictured in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Pullman Hotel in Auckland which is being used as a quarantine facility. Source: Getty Images

Of the three new cases, the mother looms as a likely index case, given she works at a catering company which services planes at Auckland airport.

The father has been described as a tradie and the daughter is a student at Papatoetoe High School, a large school in the southern suburbs of Auckland.

The school will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancelled plans in Auckland and travelled to Wellington for briefings on the latest Covid-19 cases. Source: Getty Images, file

NZ records first Covid fatality in months

The new cases come a day after New Zealand's first COVID-related death in five months.

On Saturday, Dr Bloomfield said a person tested positive for the virus while in mandatory isolation died after being moved to North Shore Hospital in Auckland.

The fatality was New Zealand's 26th Covid-related death through the pandemic.

While new cases have been identified among international arrivals, Aotearoa has enjoyed a largely Covid-free summer until this outbreak.

Last month, a new community case was identified after her quarantine at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

Five positive cases were identified from the Pullman Hotel, but authorities controlled the cases without resorting to an alert level change.

with AAP

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