New Zealand reports return of coronavirus after 102 days

New Zealand has announced its first locally transmitted coronavirus infections in more than 100 days, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to issue a stay-at-home lockdown order for the country’s largest city, Auckland.

After New Zealand receiving global praise for its success in containing the virus, Ardern said four cases had been detected on Tuesday in a single family in Auckland from an unknown source, and that more than one workplace was affected.

“After 102 days, we have our first cases of COVID-19 outside of managed isolation or quarantine facilities,” she said. “While we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario, we have also planned and prepared for it.”

Ardern said Auckland would be moved to Level 3 from midday on Wednesday, meaning that people will be asked to stay at home, and schools, bars and many other businesses will be closed, for at least three days.

She said the rest of the country would be raised to Level 2, with some physical distancing restrictions to be reintroduced. 

Until Tuesday, the World Health Organization had hailed the country as an example to others for having “successfully eliminated community transmission”.

New Zealand has reported 1,570 cases of coronavirus, including 22 deaths.

The country had not recorded community transmission since May 1. A lockdown for the nation’s nearly five million people was lifted in June after health officials reported zero active cases following the recovery of the last patient known to have contracted the infection.

“It was inevitable that New Zealand would get more cases of community transmission. This is a tricky virus,” Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s director general of health, said.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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