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Auckland cluster grows with 13 new Covid-19 infections reported

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PHOTO: Ladbible

Health officials in New Zealand announced yesterday that the new coronavirus cluster in Auckland has risen to 17 cases, raising the prospect of an extended lockdown in the country’s biggest city. National health chief Ashley Bloomfield said there are 13 new confirmed infections, all linked to 4 family members found on Tuesday, ending New Zealand’s record of 102 days without community transmission of the virus.

Police have been helping to implement an initial 3 day lockdown in Auckland since midday yesterday as teams of health workers rush to find the cluster’s origin and ramp up testing in the city. Bloomfield says among the new cases is a student at one of New Zealand’s largest high schools, attended by more than 3,000 students.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says more cases linked to the recent spike are expected. In a televised address she said:

“As we all learned with our first experience with Covid, once you identify a cluster, it grows before it slows.”

She said she’s encouraged by the fact that all the cases so far were in a single cluster limited to Auckland.

“You can see the seriousness of the situation. While it is serious, it is being dealt with in an urgent but calm and methodical way.”

Bloomfield says authorities are urgently exploring all possible routes of transmission.

“We want to find out how large it is as soon as possible, so we’ve been testing all close contacts, casual contacts, workplace, family-related. This is what we want to do as quickly as possible to find out how extensive the outbreak is and who the first case might have been.”

He said any decision on extending the lockdown depended on what the investigations uncovered over the next 24 hours.

“It’s too early to say… we’ll have a lot more information tomorrow.”

He played down one line of inquiry examining whether the virus was imported via freight, then picked up by a male member of the family, who worked in a cool room for imported goods.

“It’s a possibility — it’s unlikely but it’s something we need to rule out.”

Despite New Zealand’s early success in containing the virus – just 22 deaths in a population of 5 million – Bloomfield said health authorities have always anticipated a return, even it’s taken some people by surprise.

“Yes, we were becoming complacent and that’s why our message over the last few weeks has been around avoiding that. As you’ll recall, last week I was talking about when, not if.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | nzherald.co.nz

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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