With the emergence of 49 new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, the country has imposed 12 days of lockdown in Auckland, its largest city of 1.5 million people. The country just celebrated 102 days since the last coronavirus infection case, and was believed to have overcome the pandemic by world health authorities before the latest cases which started with one single family.
The government has begun investigating the sources of the new cases given that the country was being celebrated for having overcome the pandemic. Auckland is now under Level 3 lockdown even though the rest of the country remains under Level 2 restrictions, meaning that people in Auckland will be mandated to stay at home – except to visit drug stores, public venues such as gyms, museums, and playgrounds will be shut down, and school attendance will be very minimal.
“Lifting restrictions now and seeing an explosion of cases is the worst thing we could do for Auckland and for the New Zealand economy,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “We have got rid of COVID-19 before. We can do all of that again.”
But the government is determined to know the source of the new wave of coronavirus infections considering the fact that the country had closed its borders to foreigners since the pandemic started worldwide. Only New Zealand citizens are allowed to return to the country and they are instantly subjected to 14 days of compulsory quarantine upon entry at a government facility.
One possible explanation for the new resurgence is that infected people who are quarantined must have escaped the isolation facility and infected others in the city. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said “I think there has been a breach in our quarantine system” because back in July, two men at different times broke out of the facility – one to visit a liquor store, and the other to visit a supermarket. The only challenge is that the strain in the new cases is different from that of existing cases in the country.
Another theory is that asymptomatic persons had been breeding the virus without any detection in the country until they infected someone who is symptomatic until it became an outbreak. But the prime minister and Director General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, do not think this is the case because the strains are also different.
“This suggests this is not a case of the virus being dormant or a burning ember in our community,” PM Ardern said. “It appears to be new to New Zealand.”
Bloomfield agrees with the prime minister on the grounds that the virus would have been detected in the many tests conducted around the country, and that the virus would not survive since winter was around the corner.
“I think there’s very good evidence to suggest that it hasn’t been lurking in the community,” he said. “And we just wouldn’t have not found cases over the last three months if it had been still lurking away in the community, especially because we were going into winter.”
The country is also investigating an American cold warehouse known as Americold as the source of the new infections, but several evidences state that this is not the case. How then did the new cases surface in the country?
“We do not necessarily need to answer that question to deal with this cluster effectively,” Ardern said. “It is possible to contain a cluster or outbreak without ever being able to determine its origin. What is important is being able to establish the perimeter of the cluster and stop it from growing.”