August 18, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

The whole of New Zealand has gone into lockdown after a case of COVID-19 was identified in the community in Auckland yesterday.

The case, a man is 50s, lives in Auckland but travelled to the Coromandel Peninsula over the weekend while in infectious. There were no immediate links between the man and New Zealand’s hotel quarantine system.

The Alert Level 4 lockdown is set to last three days for the entire country while the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula are likely to be in lockdown for seven days.

The lockdown was based on the assumption that the case is the Delta variant, as all recent cases in New Zealand’s Managed Isolation hotels for returned international travellers have been this variant. This morning, New Zealand authorities have confirmed this is the case and identified four more cases linked to the initial case. The cases are a workplace contact of the initial case and three of their contacts, including a fully vaccinated person who works in an Auckland hospital.

“This case was identified in Auckland, but it is a national issue,” said New Zealand’s Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, during yesterday’s press conference.

“Because we cannot link the case to the border at this point, it is possible there are other cases around in Auckland and other possible chains of transmission.

“People from around the country will have travelled to Auckland and back to other parts of New Zealand, therefore whilst it’s a case identified in Auckland, it requires us all to be part of the response.”

Ardern pointed out this was the first time in a year the country has gone to the highest level of its COVID-19 alert system, which allows only certain essential businesses to operate and closes all restaurants and cafes, including for takeaway and delivery. Most liquor stores are also required to close. No events can take place at this alert level.

“We have made decisions on the basis that it is better to start high and go down levels, rather than start too low, not contain the virus and see it move quickly,” said Ardern.

“We’ve seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries, not least our neighbours.

“Just as we successfully stayed home and saved lives last year, I’m asking the team of five million to unite once more to defeat what is likely to be this more dangerous and transmissible variant of the virus.”