Nepal | September 28, 2020

New Zealand reports more COVID-19 cases ahead of lockdown decision

Reuters
Share Now:
  • 12 new confirmed cases and one probable case
  • Two cases outside Auckland city
  • Ardern to announce decision on lockdown

WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s first coronavirus outbreak in three months has spread further, officials reported on Friday, just hours before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to announce whether a lockdown in the country’s biggest city will be extended.

Officials reported 12 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, all linked to a now 30-strong cluster that was first detected in a family in Auckland two days ago. Officials believe an imported strain of the virus is responsible for the country’s first outbreak in three months, but are still investigating how the family was infected.

Ardern, under pressure ahead of a general election next month, repeated her “go hard, go early” response to the pandemic this week, putting Auckland, home to about 1.7 million people, into lockdown and reinstating social distancing measures across the country.

Ardern is due to announce later on Friday whether those measures will be extended, but there is growing concern that a repeat of the tough five-week lockdown she imposed earlier in the year could cripple the economy.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said it was a positive sign that all the new confirmed cases were linked to the Auckland cluster, but noted two were recorded in Tokorua, in the neighbouring Waikato region. Authorities had also identified one other probable case, Bloomfield said, in which connections still had to be traced.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” he said during a televised news conference, adding that contact tracing and testing would continue at high levels in coming days.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said genome testing suggested the new virus outbreak had originated in Britain or Australia, but officials were still investigating how the family in Auckland contracted it.

Bloomfield dismissed suggestions by health experts it was likely the virus had been quietly spreading in Auckland for weeks, saying there was “very good evidence” that was not the case.

“The nature of this outbreak shows how once you identify the first case you find quite a lot quite quickly,” he said. “We just wouldn’t have not found cases in community if it was lurking away in the community.”

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said late on Thursday that a quarantine facility breach had been identified as the source, but Hipkins said there was no evidence for that yet.

The main opposition National Party has blasted the government, saying it failed to secure quarantine facilities and accusing it of withholding information about the latest outbreak.

ECONOMY WORRIES

New Zealanders celebrated when Ardern appeared to eliminate community transmission of the coronavirus with the earlier hard lockdown that forced almost everyone to stay at home.

But opinion is divided on whether the 40-year-old leader should repeat that strategy, given its huge economic cost and mounting global evidence that the virus cannot be permanently suppressed.

Westpac Banking Corp estimated the current level of lockdown measures in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand would cost the economy about NZ$300 million, or 0.5% of gross domestic product.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand told Reuters a sustained resurgence of the virus posed “a major risk” to the bank’s outlook, given its baseline scenario has an assumption that the virus is contained in the country.

Ardern is expected to announce her decision on lockdown measures at 1730 local time (0530 GMT) after meeting with her cabinet and the release of the daily infection numbers.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Worldwide coronavirus cases cross 32.75 million, death toll at 990,472

LONDON: More than 32.75 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 990,472​ have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 20 Read More...

More handball controversy as Newcastle earn late point at Spurs

LONDON: Another controversial handball decision gave Newcastle United a stoppage-time equaliser by Callum Wilson from the penalty spot and a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Sunday. Spurs had led through a 25th-minute Lucas Moura goal and Newcastle had not managed a shot on Read More...

Bayern suffer 4-1 loss at Hoffenheim to end long unbeaten run

BERLIN: Quadruple winners Bayern Munich slumped to a shock 4-1 loss at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Sunday to end their 32-match unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back to last year. Bayern, winners of the Super Cup against Sevilla after extra time on Thursday, had not lost since Dec. Read More...

leicester city, Jamie Vardy

Vardy treble inspires Leicester to 5-2 win over Man City

MANCHESTER: A Jamie Vardy hat-trick coupled with goals from James Maddison and Youri Tielemans steered Leicester City to a stunning 5-2 win at Manchester City on Sunday and kept them top of the Premier League with a maximum nine points from three games. City had not conceded five go Read More...

Prominent personalities urge govt to save Dr KC

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 27 A group of 33 citizens, who once held prominent positions, have urged the government to save the life of Dr Govinda KC, who has been staging a fast-unto-death demanding reform in the medical education sector for the past 14 days. Issuing a joint press release today they Read More...

La Liga, barcelona, Lionel Messi

Messi back in scoring business in dream start for Koeman

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi was back in scoring business for Barcelona on Sunday, leading them to a resounding 4-0 win at home against Villarreal in a near-perfect La Liga opener for the Catalans under new coach Ronald Koeman. Teenage forward Ansu Fati was in inspirational form for Barca, c Read More...

Atletico Madrid, Luis Suarez, La Liga

Suarez scores twice, gets assist as Atletico lay down marker

MADRID: Luis Suarez had a stunning impact on his debut for Atletico Madrid following his move from Barcelona, scoring twice and providing an assist as his side crushed Granada 6-1 at home in their first game of the La Liga season on Sunday. Suarez, who only completed his switch from Barc Read More...

Replace all Cabinet ministers: NCP Co-chair Dahal

KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 27 Co-chairs of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) — Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli — met today to discuss Cabinet reshuffle. A source close to Dahal told THT that Dahal asked Oli to replace all the ministers in his Cabinet, but the PM did not Read More...