New Zealand confirms fresh community Covid-19 outbreak

New Zealand confirms fresh community Covid-19 outbreak

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the changes at an evening media conference, alongside Ashley Bloomfield, the country's Director-General of Health.

The outbreak marks the first new cases outside of quarantine in nearly three weeks.

Children were also asked to stay home from school.

She said people can go home if they live in Auckland - a border will be put in place, but there is an exemption regime.

Pharmacies and supermarkets will stay open, but other businesses requiring face-to-face interaction will close.

New Zealand has not had any local virus cases for months until the recent infections and was ranked the best performing in an index of nearly 100 countries based on containment of the coronavirus.

Earlier, New Zealand's minister for COVID-19 response, Chris Hipkins, said genomic testing was being conducted to see if the Auckland family's infection was linked to any highly infectious variants.

"Last year we indicated the vaccine would arrive in quarter two, and earlier this year we updated that to quarter one".

New Zealand, which had gone more than two months without local infections before the January case, is to start inoculating its 5 million people against the new coronavirus on February 20, after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier than anticipated.

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It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Kiwis there's no need to "rush out" to buy supplies.

"All restrictions remaining after 8 March should be proportionate to the ever-increasing number of people we have protected", the group said - adding that the burden of proof should be on ministers to show restrictions are necessary.

Of the three new cases, the mother looms as a likely index case, given she works at a catering company which services planes at Auckland airport.

As a precaution, the high school of the girl in the family will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, with COVID-19 testing facilities to be set up there, officials said.

All days after Thursday are either Race Days, or Reserve Days and can be used for racing - depending on the COVID situation and Alert Levels.

As at 1.30pm, there had been no change to New Zealand's level 1 status, Hipkins said this afternoon.

On Wednesday, it was announced that New Zealand authorities had given formal approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, to be administered to those 16 years and older once stocks arrived in the country.

She says it's a "good, timely reminder too, to everyone, please turn on the Bluetooth function and keep scanning".

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