New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that authorities discovered four cases of coronavirus from an unknown source in one Auckland household, the first cases of local transmission recorded in the world in 102 days. Ardern said Auckland, the nation’s largest city, would be relocated from midday Wednesday through midnight Friday to Warning Level 3, meaning people would be told to stay at home, while bars and several other businesses would be closed.
The only confirmed reports of the virus in New Zealand before Tuesday were 22 travelers who had recently returned from abroad and were being kept in border quarantine. The country has been internationally lauded for its response to the virus. Originally, New Zealand got rid of the virus by implementing a strict lockout at the end of March when only about 100 people tested positive for the illness. That halted the spread.
To many in the 5 million-strong South Pacific country, life had returned to normal as they attended rugby games at packed stadiums and sat in bars and restaurants without fear of infection. Yet others had warned the country was getting complacent. New Zealanders have never used to wear masks on a regular basis, but officials have advised people to buy them just in case. The outbreak comes less than six weeks before a general election is scheduled for New Zealanders to go to the polls.