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23 Jun, 2021 14:37

Anti-Covid measures tightened in New Zealand over fears of Delta variant, after 100+ days without new coronavirus cases

Anti-Covid measures tightened in New Zealand over fears of Delta variant, after 100+ days without new coronavirus cases

A higher Covid-19 alert level, just one step short of lockdown, has been implemented in Wellington, as authorities fear the more dangerous Delta strain of the deadly virus was brought to the island country.

New Zealand’s capital moved to a ‘level 2’ alert until at least the end of the week, its health officials announced Wednesday. Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited under the fresh restrictions and social distancing rules are in place across the city.

The country with its population of nearly 5 million people has been enjoying a relatively quiet life during the global outbreak, with no new Covid cases reported in over 100 days lately. A quarantine-free travel bubble had been arranged with neighboring Australia, but has now been halted.

Worries over the new potential outbreak have emerged after a tourist from Sydney visited Wellington over the weekend and tested Covid-positive back in Australia. “This is the first time an Australian traveler has brought Covid-19 to NZ, and since gone home,” the health ministry said on Wednesday.

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There are concerns the man might have spread the Delta strain of the deadly virus. “This is a more infectious variant. The risk is higher than usual,” public health official Ashley Bloomfield said, as quoted by local media. He also said “everything’s on the table,” meaning the government cannot rule out a lockdown.

While numerous locations visited by the infected tourist have been made public by authorities who are aiming to detect and isolate possible contractors to break the spread chain, four new active Covid cases were reported to the health ministry on Wednesday – but all in people who traveled internationally and underwent isolation at the border.

The infected Australian had been previously vaccinated with one dose of the AstraZeneca jab, New Zealand’s minister for Covid-19 response Chris Hipkins revealed. In New Zealand, over a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered, according to health officials.

Meanwhile in Australia, measures have also been tightened over exposure concerns to the new variant. Gatherings and movement have been restricted in Sydney, and several neighboring states closed their borders. “We have gone from near and present danger to a very real and present danger,” local health minister Brad Hazzard told the media.

Since the start of the pandemic, over 2,700 people have been infected in New Zealand, 26 of whom died. Over 381,000 have been fully vaccinated. In Australia, more than 900 of over 30,000 Covid-infected died, and over a million – which is some 4% of the population – have received two shots of a jab.

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