© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People jog past a social distancing sign in Auckland, New Zealand, August 31, 2020
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, woke up on Sunday morning to a second lockdown in a month as health authorities try to rein in a coronavirus cluster of the more contagious UK variant.
The seven-day lockdown, announced late Saturday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, follows a three-day stay-at-home order in mid-February after a local emergence of the UK variant of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Genomic sequencing of a new case recorded on Saturday, which prompted the lockdown, was linked to the existing cluster, health authorities said on Sunday, bringing it to 13 cases.
“It’s unlikely we wouldn’t see more cases,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told the state-owned television network TVNZ on Sunday. “How many cases at this point we simply don’t know.”
The new case has been considered infectious for a week. The person, a 21-year-old student, visited a number of public spaces during that time.
The new lockdown, with Level 3 restrictions, allows people to leave home only for essential shopping and essential work. Public venues will remain closed. Restrictions in the rest of the country will be tightened to Level 2, including limits on public gatherings.
The lockdown has complicated several high-visibility sporting events planned in Auckland. The organisers of the America’s Cup yacht race are reviewing plans for the head-to-head final between Italy and New Zealand.
New Zealand’s fourth Twenty20 International cricket match against Australia has been shifted to Wellington where it will be played behind closed doors on Friday.
New Zealand and neighbouring Australia have been highly successful in keeping the coronavirus pandemic from spreading through border closure, aggressive contact tracing and high community compliance with swift public health orders.
New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has recorded just over 2,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 26 deaths.
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