AUCKLAND (BBC News) – New Zealand has announced an immediate lockdown after a man tested positive for COVID, the first case in six months.
The case was spotted in Auckland, which will be locked down for a week while the rest of the country will be locked down for three days.
Authorities assume the new case is the Delta variant.
Only about 20% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Coromandel, a coastal town the infected person had visited, will also be in lockdown for seven days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the strictest “Level 4” rules were needed – schools, offices and all businesses closed, with only essential services remaining operational.
“I would like to reassure New Zealand that we have prepared for this eventuality. Going hard and going early has already worked for us,” she said.
The patient is a 58-year-old man who has been contagious since last Thursday.
There are at least 23 potential transmission sites.
There was reportedly a rush to supermarkets in Auckland as locals expected an immediate lockdown.
Officials said a strong response was needed because of the fear of the Delta variant and because there was no clear link between the new case and the border or quarantine facilities.
Data released by the New Zealand Ministry of Health on Monday showed that all Covid-19 cases detected at the country’s border in recent weeks were Delta.
“We’ve seen what can happen elsewhere if we don’t. We only have one shot,” Ms Ardern said in a nationally televised address, calling the Delta Tribe a “game changer”.
New Zealand has successfully eliminated the virus within its borders, although its international borders remain largely closed.
However, the vaccination program has been slow to roll out, with only around 20% of people fully vaccinated and 33% of people receiving a dose, according to Our World in Data.