Tag Archives: new zealand

COVID-19: Activities in New Zealand’s Auckland pends until 72-hours.

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Neighbouring Australia also suspended a quarantine-free travel “bubble” with New Zealand for the duration of the lockdown.

New Zealand’s biggest city began a snap three-day lockdown Monday, forcing two million people to stay at home, as authorities scrambled to contain the nation’s first outbreak of the highly contagious UK variant.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered the 72-hour lockdown for Auckland after three family members were found to be infected in the North Island city.

Schools and non-essential businesses have been forced to close and residents barred from leaving the city except for a few essential reasons.

The health ministry said genomic sequencing has since shown two of the cases were caused by the strain that was first detected in Britain. Tests from the third person were still pending.

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“This result reinforces the decision to take swift and robust action around the latest cases to detect and stamp out the possibility of any further transmission,” the ministry said.

Authorities said testing of the family’s close contacts had so far found no further cases, raising hopes the lockdown will end quickly.

But health officials are still unsure how the strain entered the largely coronavirus-free country.

New Zealand’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said the initial focus was on the mother’s workplace — at a company providing laundry services to international flights — “because of its obvious connections to the border”.

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He cautioned it was “too soon to rule in or out” any source of transmission and the woman had not been at work for eight days before testing positive.

‘Not again’
As tracing and testing ramped up, the streets of central Auckland were largely empty Monday, with torrential rain helping to discourage people from venturing outdoors.

Coronavirus testing centres were busy, though, and there were long lines of vehicles stopped at police roadblocks as people tried to leave the city despite the lockdown.

Auckland has been ring-fenced from the rest of New Zealand, with travel in and out of the metropolis highly restricted for the next three days.

Neighbouring Australia also suspended a quarantine-free travel “bubble” with New Zealand for the duration of the lockdown.

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It was the first clampdown in nearly six months in the Pacific island nation, which has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic with just 25 deaths in a population of five million.

The remainder of the country was placed on a lower alert level, with people required to wear masks on public transport and gatherings limited to a maximum of 100 people.

“I know we all feel the same way when this happens -– not again,” Ardern said as she announced the measures on Sunday.

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“But remember, we have been here before, that means we know how to get out of this -– together.”

Ardern’s office meanwhile announced that the first batch of coronavirus vaccines arrived in New Zealand on Monday.

Some 60,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have reached Auckland and would be given to border and quarantine workers beginning Saturday after quality control checks, she said.

Auckland spent more than two weeks in lockdown last August after an outbreak was linked to a worker handling imported frozen freight, but New Zealand has largely been enjoying relaxed restrictions for months.

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Several cases caused by the variant first detected in South Africa were also detected in the city three weeks ago, before being traced back to a hotel where the people arriving from overseas had completed quarantine.

That outbreak was successfully contained without a lockdown, even though the South African variant is also considered highly infectious.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: New Zealand election date uncertain

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern weighed delaying New Zealand’s upcoming election Wednesday, as experts investigated whether the coronavirus could have re-entered the country through freight shipments.

Health authorities rushed to implement a rapid lockdown in the country’s largest city Auckland, where four more probable infections have been uncovered bringing the outbreak’s total to eight.

With 1.5 million people under stay-at-home orders, and millions more at risk of a wider outbreak, Ardern said she was seeking advice on delaying the September 19 election.

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Parliament was due to be dissolved on Wednesday to allow the election to take place, but the centre-left leader held off the move until Monday to monitor how the crisis evolves.

“At this stage, it’s too early to make any decision but this means there is some flexibility if required,” said Ardern, who is well ahead in opinion polls and expected to win a second term.

Leader of the opposition National Party Judith Collins called for a delay until late November, or even next year.

“It is simply unsustainable to expect there to be a fair and just election at a time when opposition parties are not free to campaign,” she said.

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– Cool room testing –

New Zealand’s much envied run of 102 days without community transmission ended abruptly on Tuesday, when four people from one family — with no history of foreign travel — tested positive.

Authorities were still trying to piece together the movements of those infected and the source of the latest infections remained unknown.

But national director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said tests were under way to see if the virus could have been imported via freight, then picked up by a male member of the family, who worked in a cool room for imported goods.

“We know the virus can survive within refrigerated environments for quite some time,” he said, revealing a team was at the Auckland site where the man worked.

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If the theory is proven, it could have profound implications for international trade flows already battered by the months-long pandemic.

– Back in the bunker –

Aucklanders were coming to terms Wednesday with a three-day stay-at-home order that came into force at lunchtime, ending months of near normality during which residents could flock to restaurants and pack rugby stadiums.

Some of the everyday freedoms New Zealanders had enjoyed were taken away again, with Ardern restricting gatherings in the city to a maximum of 10 people, and urging Aucklanders to wear masks.

Panic buying returned to supermarkets, huge queues formed at COVID-19 testing stations and masked police manned checkpoints on major roads to enforce the new measures.

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Nursing homes nationwide were told to shut their doors, with Ardern saying it was the best way to protect vulnerable seniors in facilities that have proved to be transmission hotspots overseas.

The final match of Super Rugby Aotearoa between Auckland Blues and Canterbury Crusaders — which had been set to take place in front of a sold-out 43,000 crowd at Eden Park on Sunday — was also in doubt.

New Zealand had been held up by the World Health Organization as an example of how to contain the disease after recording only 22 deaths in a population of five million, and halting community transmission for more than three months.

Bloomfield acknowledged many Kiwis were badly rattled as they come to terms with the return of a virus many thought had been defeated.

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“I know the virus re-emerging in our community has caused alarm and the unknown is scary,” he said. “(But) we’ve been here before, we can get through it if we work together.”

The virus’ return coincided with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand boosting its government bond-buying programme by NZ$40 billion ($26 billion) to NZ$100 billion in a bid to cushion the economy.

Ratings agency S&P Global said it retained a positive outlook for New Zealand, despite the re-occurrence of the virus.

“We believe New Zealand has outperformed nearly all other countries in containing the virus since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide,” it said.


#Newsworthy

COVID-19 revisits New Zealand after over three months.

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New Zealand announced its first locally transmitted coronavirus infections more than 100 days on Tuesday and issued a stay-at-home lockdown order for the country’s largest city.

After receiving global praise for its success containing the virus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said four cases had been detected in a single family in Auckland from an unknown source.

“After 102 days, we have our first cases of COVID-19 outside of managed isolation or quarantine facilities… we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario,” she told the country in a televised address.

“We have also planned and prepared for it.”

Until Tuesday, the World Health Organization had hailed the country as an example to others for having “successfully eliminated community transmission”.

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New Zealand reported just 22 deaths in a population of five million and had not recorded community transmission since May 1.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to journalists during a press conference at the Justice Precinct in Christchurch on March 20, 2019. Marty MELVILLE / AFP

As a result, New Zealanders had been enjoying a near-normal lifestyle with no social distancing and spectators allowed at sports and cultural events.

But health authorities had repeatedly warned people not to be complacent and said a second wave of infections was “inevitable”.

Auckland will be locked down for at least three days from Wednesday and some social distancing restrictions will be reintroduced in the rest of the country.


#Newsworthy…

Covid-19: New Zealand Relax Lockdown Further.

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has announced a gradual easing of the country’s lockdown measures.

However, the government said the country’s border will remain closed.

At a news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the easing will begin starting on Thursday, meaning most businesses and public spaces could reopen.

“But everyone would need to play it safe. We must continue to behave as if the virus is still amongst us,’’ Ardern cautioned.

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According to her, schools will re-open from May 18, while bars will be able to re-open on May 21.

“We may have won a few battles, but we have not won the war,’’ the prime minister said.

She said that gatherings at home for weddings, funerals and tangihanga (Maori funeral rites) would be capped at 10 people, while all other social events, either indoors or outdoors, would be limited to 100 people.

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Ardern said if case numbers were still low in a fortnight, restrictions on gathering numbers may be eased further.

The country’s total number of reported COVID-19 cases was 1,479, with 21 deaths.


#Newsworthy…

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Shocking!!! New Zealand volcano: Five dead and eight missing after eruption

THIRTY-FOUR new zealand police have confirmed that five people have died and eight are missing after white island volcano erupted on monday as tourists visited…

people survived, with 31 still receiving treatment in hospital.

Two British women were among those receiving treatment, said the UK High Commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke.

Also among those listed as missing or injured were Australian, US, Chinese, Malaysian and New Zealand citizens.

In a press conference on Tuesday morning, she said further rescue efforts were now “very sadly a recovery operation”.

The survivors were taken off the uninhabited island by boat or by helicopter. Emergency services have so far been unable to search the area because of dangerous conditions, with plumes of smoke and ash continuing to rise above the volcano on Tuesday.

Smoke and ash rises from a volcano on White Island early in the morning on December 9, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand
Image captionThe volcano early on Tuesday

Tourists had been seen walking inside the crater of White Island volcano moments before it erupted.

White Island, also called Whakaari, is the country’s most active volcano. Despite that, the privately owned island is a tourist destination with frequent day tours and scenic flights available.

What is the latest?

Police confirmed that a total of 47 people had been on the island when the disaster happened on Monday afternoon local time.

Rescuers will only go to the island when it is safe to do so, police Supt Bruce Bird stressed, but reconnaissance flights have detected no signs of life there.

Stills from a live feed show the crater minutes before the eruption

We will be relying on advice coming from the scientific and technical committee in Wellington who are currently meeting at the moment and hope to hear further advice on when we may potentially return to the island,” Supt Bird said.

Speaking at the same news conference, Prime Minister Ardern paid tribute to helicopter crews who had flown to the island on Monday to bring people out despite the dangers.

“I want to acknowledge the courageous decision made by first responders and those pilots who in their immediate rescue efforts made an incredibly brave decision under extraordinarily dangerous circumstances in an attempt to get people out,” she said.

What happened at the volcano?
White Island erupted at around 14:11 (01:11 GMT) on Monday, sending up a thick plume of ash and smoke which was filmed by visitor Michael Schade.

Mr Schade, who was on a boat leaving the island after a morning tour, told the BBC he had been at the crater just 30 minutes before the disaster.

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“We had just got on the boat… then someone pointed it out and we saw it,” he said.

“I was basically just shocked. The boat turned back and we grabbed some people that were waiting on the pier.”

Another witness, Brazilian Allessandro Kauffmann, said in an Instagram post in Portuguese that his boat had left five minutes before the eruption.

“This other tour that arrived right after, unfortunately they did not manage to leave in time, and there were some people that suffered serious burns,” he added.

A live feed from the volcano showed a group of visitors inside the crater before the stream went dark.

Who was caught up in the disaster?
There are few details about those caught in the eruption. Some who had gone to the island were passengers from the Ovation of the Seas, a cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean.

It left Sydney last week and stopped near Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island before arriving in the city of Tauranga, near White Island, on Sunday.

#Newsworthy