New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the nation on a three-day lockdown Tuesday after a single case of community-spread COVID-19 was confirmed in Auckland, the country’s largest city.
The new case — New Zealand’s first in six months — was diagnosed in a 58-year-old man who had visited the nearby Coromandel area, though it is not known how he contracted the virus that causes COVID-19.
At a news briefing, Ardern said it will not be known for certain if the case was caused by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus until genetic testing is completed. She said Auckland and Coromandel will be locked down for seven days while the rest of the country is on a three-day lockdown.
“Delta has been called a game-changer, and it is," Ardern told reporters. "It means we need to again go hard and early to stop this spread. We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance." If it is confirmed, New Zealand would be among the last nations in the world in which the variant has appeared.
Under New Zealand’s Level 4 lockdown rules, schools, offices and all businesses will be shut down, and only essential services will be operational. The nation’s last stay-at- home orders were lifted in March.
The nation of 5 million people has been among the best in the world at containing the virus that causes COVID-19. The country has seen just 2,914 cases and 26 deaths, according to U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak. A large part of that success is due to New Zealand closing its borders for the past 18 months to nonresidents.
(Some information in this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.)