For the first time since Nov. 18, New Zealand health officials Sunday began to investigate a probable case of community-spread coronavirus.
Community spread occurs when a person contracts the coronavirus without any known contact with a sick person or travel to an affected area.
With a tough lockdown, New Zealand had nearly eliminated the coronavirus, with new cases found among travelers returning home and quarantining. As of Sunday, there were 79 such cases. But the new variants from Britain and South Africa have been found among those cases, raising concerns of community spread returning.
New Zealand doesn’t expect to have most of its population vaccinated against the coronavirus until the second half of this year.
On Saturday, the local government in Hong Kong said it locked down one of the territory’s most heavily populated areas to complete mandatory COVID-19 testing of its entire population.
Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region government said the lockdown was imposed in parts of the Jordan District to test nearly 10,000 residents within 48 hours, paving the way for residents to go to their jobs Monday.
Authorities said 3,000 government workers had been deployed to the district, where officials said 162 cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed in the first 20 days of the new year.
Authorities also locked down Temple Street, one of Hong Kong’s busiest night markets.
The shutdown comes as Hong Kong grapples with its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in two months as infections worldwide approach 100 million cases.
As of Saturday evening, there were 98.7 million COVID-19 cases and 2.1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The United States accounted for nearly 25 million of those cases and more than 417,000 of those deaths.
As of Saturday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 17,390,345 people had received one or more doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccine.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the vaccines could bring the global pandemic under control, with vaccinations under way in more than 50 countries. However, he said Thursday, all but two of those countries are high- or middle-income countries.
"We must work together as one global family to ensure the urgent and equitable rollout of vaccines," he said.