New Zealand Imposes Restrictions in Wellington Amid Virus Alert

New Zealand moved to contain a possible Covid-19 outbreak in capital city Wellington, limiting the size of gatherings and imposing social distancing after an Australian tourist tested positive for the virus.

The Wellington region will move to alert level 2 at 6 p.m. local time Wednesday, one step below a lockdown, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced at a press conference. Businesses and schools can remain open but gatherings are limited to 100 and physical distancing must be observed, making queues at supermarkets likely.

The measures come after an Australian traveler from Sydney visited over the weekend while infectious. They went to multiple eateries and tourist attractions in the city before returning to Australia on Monday, where they tested positive.

“Even though we have no positive cases at the moment, we do know that we had a positive case and that that person had some extensive, potential exposure in the Wellington region,” Hipkins said. The government would consider tightening restrictions further if cases start to emerge in the community outside the groups identified through contact tracing, he said.

A return of the virus would be a blow for New Zealand, which has gone about four months without any community cases and has been one of the best performers in the world during the pandemic. The nation paused quarantine-free travel with Australia’s New South Wales last night following a new outbreak in Sydney.

The Ministry of Health said it appears the visitor to Wellington contracted the virus in Sydney prior to their departure. They had received one dose of Covid vaccine, Hipkins said, potentially making them less infectious.

The person was in Wellington from Saturday, June 19, until Monday, June 21. In addition to their flights and hotel, they visited several bars and restaurants and the national museum, Te Papa. Close contacts are being asked to get tested and isolate for two weeks.

The government will review its alert level settings on Sunday.

New Zealand is vulnerable to an outbreak because its vaccine rollout has been slow. Immunization of the general population is due to start at the end of July.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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