Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Aug. 18 that the source of the cases in Auckland was genomically linked to the current outbreak in Australia’s New South Wales.
It is currently unknown how the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus was transmitted from NSW into the Auckland community, although several infected people from NSW were currently in managed isolation.
“Our case originated in Australia,” she said. “The fact it is linked to the NSW outbreak gives us a lot of leads to chase down, as quickly as we can.”
New Zealand has also recorded a further 6 more cases in the past 24 hours, taking the outbreak total to seven, including a teacher and a health care worker. The health care worker was fully vaccinated and worked four shifts while infectious, the NZ Ministry of Health confirmed in a media release.
Three of the cases have been placed into an Auckland isolation facility, under strict infection prevention and control procedures, including the use of full personal protective equipment.
“We have a number of high risk events already as part of this outbreak, including a school, casino and medical facility,” said Ardern. That is why following the rules for Level Four restrictions is just so important.”
She said the NZ government is expecting more cases, with the modelling shown that the outbreak could grow between 50 to 120 cases.
New Zealand enforced the highest level of lockdown in the country on Tuesday after one case—a man in his fifties had tested positive for the virus—marking the first time the entire country is placed under lockdown since the start of the CCP virus pandemic.
The countrywide lockdown will last three days, except in Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsular, which was told today to expect to remain under level four restrictions for a full seven days.
“The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard,” Ardern told reporters at a press briefing. “We have made the decision on the basis that it is better to start high and go down levels rather than to go low, not contain the virus, and see it move quickly.”
Under “Alert Level 4,” everyone is required to stay at home and are only allowed to make physical contact with those in their household bubble. Masks are also mandatory when outside of a person’s home.
Only essential businesses are allowed to operate. All schools will also be closed, which school leaders have said will detrimentally impact learning outcomes as many teachers were not prepared for the snap lockdown and have not prepared resources for online schooling.
Vaughan Couillault, the president of the Secondary Principals’ Association and an Auckland principal, told Stuff. co.nz that the snap decision to move to alert four lockdowns had left students without their work devices needed for online schooling.
“It was just too late in the day for us to get devices pushed out.”
Further, he noted that many children would not have ideal learning conditions, with many families in New Zealand not having access to multiple online devices to ensure their kids were learning.
“There may not be a device per person. There may be one device and four kids needing to use it,” he said.
In the Northland regional city of Lower Hutt, Principle Simonne Goodall told Stuff.co.nz that her teachers have decided to write off the week.
“We’ve basically messaged our families and said we are unable to provide online learning for the next three days because the bulk of our kids don’t have access,” she said. “I’m sure there will be a bit of TV watching.”