Medical staff prepare to take a COVID-19 tests at a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch
Medical staff prepare to take a COVID-19 tests at a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, Aug. 13, 2020.

SYDNEY - New Zealand is extending a nationwide lockdown after more COVID-19 infections were detected.  Four mystery cases diagnosed in Auckland on Tuesday were the first to have been locally transmitted in more than 100 days.  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expects more infections to emerge in the coming days.  Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, will be subject to a level 3 coronavirus lockdown, while the rest of the country will remain at level 2.

The emergency centers on a cluster of cases in Auckland.  The origin of the infections is still being investigated.  Thirty-eight people are in government quarantine.  New Zealand’s biggest city will remain under level 3 coronavirus restrictions until later this month, at least. Bars, restaurants and schools are shut, and most workers forced to stay at home.  The rest of New Zealand, a country of five million people, is on a level two lockdown in a four-tier alert system, which means public gatherings are limited to 100 people and strangers must physically distance. 

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern says her cautious approach is warranted as the Covid-19 outbreak gets worse.   

“It will grow before it slows, and it may continue to be linked to schools, churches and social gatherings as it has done to date," she said. " In keeping with our precautionary approach and New Zealand’s philosophy of going hard and going early, today the Cabinet has agreed to maintain our current settings for an additional twelve days.”  

Last month, the World Health Organization highlighted New Zealand as an example for having "successfully eliminated community transmission.”  

In June, Prime Minister Ardern said the country had “united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus.”   

But the new cases are a reminder - even in places where the virus had seemingly vanished - that outbreaks can still happen.

New Zealand’s international borders remain closed to foreign nationals.

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