Largest city the centre of outbreak . . .
After 102 days with no new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand outside its managed isolation facilities for New Zealanders returning from overseas, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced four new cases of community spread from an unknown source late on Tuesday New Zealand time, all members of one Auckland family. On Wednesday, a further four probable cases were announced – all linked to the family – although test results have not been released at the time of writing. One new confirmed case in managed isolation was also recorded, bringing the total number of active cases to 22. Aggressive contact tracing was immediately enacted, and testing capacity has been ramped up, with long line-ups now common.
Regional restrictions in place . . .
Ardern announced the Auckland region moving to alert level 3 of the country’s four-level COVID-19 alert system, which entails a return to working from home, closed public venues, physical distancing, restrictions on retail, and remote school and university learning, plus checkpoints around the edges of the Auckland region to encourage compliance. The rest of the country has now moved to alert level 2 after having been at alert level 1 – the lowest level – since June 8. Under alert level 2, people are required to maintain physical distancing and wear face coverings. Of particular concern is that two of the initial positive individuals travelled from Auckland to the city of Rotorua over the weekend while symptomatic and visited popular tourist destinations. The outbreak could also delay the general election scheduled for September 19.
Focusing on contact tracing . . .
While Prime Minister Ardern and Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s Director-General of Health, have emphasized that the increased restrictions are a return to those successfully enacted during the country’s first wave, one important difference this time around is that it will be mandatory for all businesses and service providers to display at their entrance a unique QR code for use with the NZ COVID Tracer app. And while there are important differences in functionality between the recently-released Canadian and New Zealand COVID-19 tracing apps, such technologies will be important for Canadian governments, companies, and people as we contend with opening economies and returning to school at the same time as COVID-19 remains a reality across the country.