New Zealand to Quarantine Virus Cases as Auckland Cluster Grows

New Zealand recorded 13 new local cases of the coronavirus on Thursday and said it will transfer anyone infected into quarantine facilities, as the government attempts to stamp out the nation’s first outbreak in more than three months.

The cluster of infections in the largest city of Auckland now stands at 17 people and the government will decide tomorrow whether to extend a three-day lockdown there. Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield told reporters in Wellington that he expects the number of infections to grow, and the mandatory quarantine would help stop the spread of the virus through households.

After eradicating community transmission, New Zealand’s 102-day Covid-free run ended this week when four new cases were detected in an Auckland household, from a yet-to-be determined source. Officials are heeding lessons from countries such as Japan and Australia, where a reliance on self-isolation at home has failed to prevent a rapid spread of the infection. Nations such as South Korea have had better success by isolating cases outside of their homes.

New Zealand now has 36 active cases, which includes 19 people who tested positive during the 14-day quarantine that’s mandatory for anyone returning to the country from overseas.

The quarantine sites have capacity to handle more people, and can also house family members without putting them at risk of infection, Bloomfield said.

“These facilities are expressly set up to help minimize any risk of further infection in the community,” he said.

Auckland, a city of 1.6 million people, has been in lockdown since yesterday as health officials try to trace the origin of the infections. Only shops providing essential services such as groceries, gasoline and health products can open, while people are being urged to work from home and wear a face covering if they need to venture out. Social distancing rules and limits on gatherings have also been reimposed on the rest of the country.

Ardern is set to decide tomorrow whether to extend the lockdown beyond Friday, and is awaiting results from extensive virus testing to determine how widespread the outbreak may be.

“I know this disruption to businesses is putting extraordinary pressure on you, but the best long-term economic response is for us to get this immediate response right,” Ardern told reporters on Thursday.

New Zealand to Quarantine Virus Cases as Auckland Cluster Grows

While Ardern said it was heartening that so far the outbreak was restricted to one cluster, she warned New Zealanders that the numbers would worsen.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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