New Zealand has reported 14 new Covid-19 cases a day after its largest city, Auckland, was re-locked.
The discovery of four new infected family members earlier this week shocked a country that had not recorded any locally transmitted cases in more than three months.
Of the new cases, 1
A three-day lockdown was imposed in Auckland on Wednesday.
“We can see the seriousness of the situation we are in,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a press conference.
“It is dealt with urgently, but calmly and methodically.”
All confirmed cases are now being quarantined, officials said. Some of their contacts can also be quarantined.
New Zealand has received international acclaim for its early response to the pandemic.
It has once again made swift efforts to reintroduce strict movement restrictions in Auckland and social distancing measures across the country.
Prior to Tuesday, New Zealand was 102 days without a record of a locally broadcast case of Covid-19, one of the few countries to have reached such a milestone.
Ms. Ardern has also said that she expected the outbreak to continue to widen before it slows down.
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Health workers are raging for the origin of this latest cluster and testing the family and work contacts of the newly infected.
“We’re working hard to get the contact tracing we need to do and backtracking to find out where this infection came from,” National Health Director Ashley Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB Radio.
In other countries where the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted after the number of new cases fell, infections also picked up again.
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Vietnam recorded 99 days of no community transmission before a wave of new infections hit downtown Da Nang in late July.
There, researchers are also looking for the source of the recent outbreak to help contain the disease.
Some health professionals in New Zealand, such as Vietnam, have suggested the virus may have been spreading through the community for several weeks before the new cases were discovered.
Dr. Bloomfield had previously raised the possibility that the virus had entered New Zealand by freight when one of the infected family members was working in a warehouse that imports frozen goods.
But on Thursday he said it was “a slim possibility” without naming other potential sources, Reuters reported.
Auckland now had well-known pre-lockdown scenes with people rushing to the supermarkets for groceries. Local media also reported on others in the city waiting to be tested for the virus.
The surge in new cases has increased the possibility of a prolonged lockdown of the city as New Zealand is just weeks away from a scheduled election.
Ms. Ardern will announce the next steps for the lockdown on Friday and a decision on the vote before Monday.