The entire country of New Zealand has been put under another lockdown by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after just one positive case of COVID-19 was reported.
Sky News reported that the positive test is the first case of the coronavirus in the remote island country in six months. But with the single case, all schools and businesses will be closed until the end of the week, while only “essential services” will continue to operate.
The person who tested positive was described as a 58-year-old man from Auckland. NPR reported authorities traced the man’s movements to the city of Coromandel.
Both cities will be completely closed for seven days, while the rest of the country will reopen on Friday.
Ardern cited the delta variant as her rationale for locking down the entire country.
“Delta has been a game-changer, we’re responding to that,” she said at a news conference. “The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard.”
“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,” the prime minister added.
“We have seen what happens elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it,” Ardern also said, according to NPR. “We only get one chance.”
Ardern’s invoking of the delta strain was, as she admitted, speculation. It has not been confirmed that the variant has made its way to New Zealand’s shores.
The news of the lockdown sent people scrambling to stock up at stores. The country’s currency also took a hit.
New Zealand has been almost entirely closed to international travel since the pandemic began in early 2020. Only 26 deaths nationwide have been attributed to COVID.
Thus far, leaders have only been able to convince less than 20 percent of New Zealand’s 5 million people to get vaccinated. Roughly 32 percent of the population has had at least one shot.
Vaccination efforts will be suspended until the lockdown is over.
Ardern said she has been watching the lockdown in Sydney closely. That Australian city, and the entirety of New South Wales, are the epicenter of a lockdown where citizens have been urged to report people for behavior such as talking to their neighbors.
Those in New South Wales who do not comply with government lockdown orders have been threatened with arrest.
The BBC reported that an outbreak there has resulted in 3,000 cases since June.
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