The reality of the global pandemic still raging around the world hit New Zealand abruptly last night as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced four new cases of Covid-19 with unknown sources in Auckland.
The cases are all within the same family and with authorities still unable to pin down how they may have caught the virus, Auckland is shifting back to Alert Level 3 from midday today until midnight on Friday. The rest of the country will move to Level 2.
Ms Ardern says putting Auckland back into lockdown is necessary to give authorities time to trace and isolate any close contacts of the new outbreak.
Just hours after he was filmed getting his own Covid-19 test, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was also back at the Beehive last night to assure Kiwis that the Ministry of Health has been preparing for such a return of Covid-19 in the community.
“The health system is well prepared, and the important thing now is to stop the spread of the virus in our community,” he says.
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So, what now?
Auckland’s move to Level 3 at midday will see the return of many lockdown restrictions that Kiwis last saw back in mid-May.
Public venues, including gyms, libraries, parks and food courts should now close, while schools will only be open to children of essential workers.
Gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed, but only for weddings, funerals and tangihanga. Auckland’s jury trials are also suspended until Monday. The Government is also recommending the wearing of masks this time around.
You can find more details about what Level 3 means for Aucklanders here.
Anyone currently in Auckland who doesn’t live there is being advised to return home. And if those outside of the Super City need a refresher on what Alert Level 2 looks like, you can find those details here.
Meanwhile, Auckland’s health authorities are boosting community testing for the virus with extra capacity being added to the city’s four community testing centres from today.
Panic buying resumes
Despite repeated calls for Aucklanders to remain calm as the region moves to Level 3, supermarkets across the city were inundated last night as news spread about the new cases within the community.
Countdown’s New Lynn store even saw people ripping open doors after security tried to control the amount of people rushing in. Supermarkets’ online shopping sites have also struggled to keep up with the sudden surge in demand.
Prime Minister Ardern says there’s not expected to be shortages on food or supplies.
Both Countdown and Foodstuffs have also moved to assure customers their stores are well stocked and are asking customers to buy only what they need, as they need it. Supermarkets will today be reverting to lockdown measures, including social distancing and restricted numbers in store.
Meanwhile, Retail NZ is warning the three-day lockdown could be “catastrophic” for businesses still recovering from the impact of the initial Covid-19 outbreak. Under Level 3, businesses must close their doors to customers, but can still sell online.
Infometrics data suggests Auckland’s three-day lockdown could see as much as a $69 million reduction in spending.
Election campaigns on hold
The return of Covid-19 in the community has also seen the major political parties suspending their election campaigns.
Both Labour and New Zealand First say their campaigns have been put on hold with Jacinda Ardern returning to Wellington yesterday.
Judith Collins has also confirmed all of National’s party events planned for today have been cancelled. Ms Collins adds that it’s “disappointing” Covid-19 is back in the community.
Questions are already being asked about what the latest outbreak will mean for the upcoming election. Political commentator Ben Thomas has delved into some of those issues over at The Spinoff, including the effect of the latest lockdown on the electorate’s psyche.
Nervous wait at rest home
Hours before the Government announced the new community transmission of Covid-19 in Auckland, a Christchurch rest home facility was revealed to be in partial lockdown after several of their residents fell ill with flu-like symptoms.
1 NEWS understands level one of The Village Palms went into lockdown after all eight residents became unwell. They were all tested for Covid-19 yesterday morning. The facility says it’s normal procedure, particularly during cold and flu season.
Other news of note this morning:
Some electioneering did take place around the country yesterday before last night’s bombshell Covid-19 lockdown announcement. National announced its crime and justice policies, as well as plans to create two new national parks, before they demanded Labour’s Jacinda Ardern reveal how she plans to vote in the cannabis referendum.
The largest hospital ever built in New Zealand is almost ready to open to patients.
Lawyers say they're facing a deluge of separation enquiries as relationships buckle under the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A new study finds Antarctica's melting ice shelves over the past 25 years have produced enough water to fill the Grand Canyon.
The Crusaders have admitted to damaging the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy while celebrating winning the tournament.
And RNZ’s Checkpoint has found a homeless person did stay in managed isolation as claimed by National MP Michael Woodhouse in June – but he had every right to be there.
This is the part of the briefing where I usually finish with a slice of news that’s a little more light-hearted.
I had a great one lined up for this morning, too, with a Seven Sharp piece about bridezillas that segued into Hilary Barry asking Jeremy Wells when his own wedding would be taking place.
But a lot has happened since 7pm yesterday. So, instead, I’ll just borrow a quote from the Prime Minister as Auckland goes back into Level 3 lockdown today: “Be vigilant. We will get through this.”