NZ scrambles to trace cluster virus infections, no word on election schedule

Return of Virus After 102 Days Threatens New Zealand’s Recovery

Even the consideration of moving a national election because of four confirmed cases and four probable cases of COVID-19 is an example of how public health policy built around eradicating the virus can be crippling to a society. She warned restrictions would likely be extended if officials could not trace the source within three days.

Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield told reporters in Wellington that he expects the COVID cluster to increase.

Residents of Auckland, home to around 1.7 million people, were given just hours to prepare for the return to level 3 restrictions on Wednesday, requiring people to stay home unless they were making essential trips.

The government is due to make a decision Friday on whether to extend Auckland's lockdown, which seems increasingly likely given the new cases.

The discovery of four infected family members in Auckland led Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to swiftly reimpose tight restrictions in the city and social distancing measures across the entire country.

"It's not good. There's a lot of people awaiting test results, they've got families".

Ardern said there "wasn't any evidence at this stage there was a "super spreader" event".

"What we know about clusters as we have found out in the past is that they do continue to grow", he said.

"We know that although we are primarily looking for human-to-human transmission, we do need to check whether or not it had something to do with freight", she said.

New Zealand officials and scientists are eying a breach in isolation security as the possible cause of the first cases of community transmission in the country in 102 days.

"As with our first outbreak, things will get worse before they get better", she said in a televised address.

"At the Mt Wellington facility we've had a further three confirmed cases".

Chinese officials have reported cases of Covid-19 being detected on the packaging of imported frozen seafood.

Some of those infected work at an Auckland refrigerated food facility, leading to speculation the virus could have survived from overseas on chilled or frozen food.

One person is now in hospital receiving treatment with coronavirus.

Long queues of people formed at pop-up clinics, with some waiting hours to be tested for the virus, and there was a rush to supermarkets to stock up on essentials.

New Zealand scientists doubt the virus has been circulating undetected the past 3 months.

This possibility has allowed the major opposition National Party to seize on potential flaws in Ardern's approach ahead of the September 19 election, which she described as a "COVID election" when launching her campaign.

Ms Ardern hinted the country's general election may be postponed in the wake of the latest coronavirus cluster.

On Wednesday, Ardern emphasized that Australia's situation - and the situation in countries around the world - showed how important it was for New Zealand to stick to the new restriction rules.

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