New Zealand: Expert warns of 'nasty' RSV outbreak
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Health experts hailed New Zealand as a beacon of hope last year, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern able to guide her country to zero cases. Her high-risk, high-reward zero-tolerance policy saw the country’s doors closed at the height of the pandemic, and it eventually became the first to operate free of restrictions. But as the rest of the world starts to emerge from its year-long lockdown, Covid cases have slipped through Ms Ardern’s well-constructed shield.
Where have Covid cases developed in New Zealand?
New Zealand health authorities have reported one Covid case, the first since February this year.
They recorded a community infection in Auckland, the country’s most populous city.
The news has inspired a rapid rush to find the source and a severe reaction from Ms Ardern.
The Prime Minister has plunged New Zealand into a three-day lockdown.
The lockdown begins at midnight local time (1pm BST) and gives officials time to sequence and source the case.
Speaking from Wellington, Ms Ardern said health officials believe it is likely a Delta variant infection.
Data from the country’s Ministry of Health has confirmed Delta made up 100 percent of cases sequenced at the border in recent weeks.
The Prime Minister said the variant is a “game-changer”, and her government is “responding to that”.
She has resolved to “go hard” and get her country out of lockdown as soon as possible.
Delta’s latent potential for rapid transmission meant health officials recommended immediate nationwide response.
The last time New Zealand followed such a tactic was in its initial outbreak response a year ago.
Residents will live under similar conditions as other countries when they navigated the height of Covid infections.
New Zealand’s maximum Covid restriction level is Alert Level 4.
The national warning will force schools, public venues and businesses to close their doors.
Anyone venturing outdoors will need to don a face covering, with only essential shops open.
The New Zealand government has allowed shops carrying groceries, health products and gasoline to keep operating.
Experts have urged maximum caution given the possibility the case emerged in the Auckland community.
Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist with the University of Otago, said this is “more likely”.
Should this prove the case, the “rapid, intense lockdown” could prove vital as there may “have been infectious people in the community, potentially for several days”.
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