Officials are urgently trying to track and trace the movements of the Auckland family who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week.
Staff members at two Rotorua eateries are now in isolation after it emerged one of the cases visited them recently, while two Auckland medical centres are temporarily closed. An Auckland high school student has also now tested positive for Covid-19.
More than 200 close contacts of the family have been identified, with 300 staff members from Americold in Mt Wellington and the Dominion Road branch of Finance Now also being tested.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield invoked Public Health Act powers yesterday to order any employees or contractors connected to those two workplaces to stay home.
More than 3,500 Aucklanders were swabbed for Covid-19 yesterday, with many lining up for hours to be tested. Another two pop-up testing facilities will open in the city today to cope with demand.
“Environmental testing” is also taking place at the Americold storage facility to rule out the virus being imported into the country via refrigerated freight.
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New health measures rolled out
The Government has now made it mandatory for businesses to display the QR code for their COVID TRACER app. Businesses have one week to comply with the new order.
And while it’s not mandatory yet, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is also urging Aucklanders to wear face masks when visiting public spaces.
Demand for face masks has been strong around the country since the new cases of Covid-19 emerged, with one Wellington pharmacy selling 600 masks in less than 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, rest homes across the country have taken the step of going into full lockdown until midnight on Friday.
They say they’re not taking any chances after seeing the devastating effects of Melbourne’s Covid-19 outbreak.
Roadblocks surround city
Nine roadblocks have now been set up at Auckland’s exit points as officials move to stop any Aucklanders hoping to dodge lockdown.
Long queues developed yesterday and some people were made to turn around, however police last night praised Kiwis for mostly complying with the travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, those who are flying out of Auckland with Air New Zealand can expect a few changes, too.
The airline is now requiring all passengers flying out of the city to wear face masks. People flying from other parts of the country are also being encouraged to use a mask.
Tension felt around the country
Auckland’s Level 3 lockdown has understandably sent jitters through the rest of New Zealand.
Covid-19 testing centres in other parts of the country experienced a surge in demand yesterday.
One person was taken into police custody following an incident at a Hamilton testing centre, while a man with flu-like symptoms in Rotorua says he was turned away from a testing centre twice because it was too busy. Healthline was also swamped with calls.
Supermarkets reinstated restrictions around the country, including a limit on certain “Covid items”.
Tensions boiled over at one Christchurch supermarket yesterday with a customer caught on video threatening to punch a worker in the head.
Calls to delay election
With election campaigns currently in a state of flux, National Party leader Judith Collins is calling for September’s election be delayed.
She says the September 19 date is “simply unsustainable” and is suggesting an election in November – or next year.
Parliament was due to be dissolved yesterday morning but that’s now been deferred until at least Monday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says they are looking at options around the election, but no decisions have been made yet.
PM dismisses Brownlee's comments
Meanwhile, Ms Ardern says the idea that the Government would hold back information about Covid-19 from the public is “just nonsense”.
Her comments followed assertions by National’s Gerry Brownlee that the Government knew more than they were letting on leading up to this week’s Covid-19 outbreak.
The Prime Minister says she’d prefer the Opposition channelled its energy into the efforts to stamp out the resurgence of the virus.
Other news of note this morning:
Three people have died in a passenger train crash in Scotland.
Russia says it's made a viable Covid-19 vaccine, with President Vladimir Putin’s daughter one of the first to receive it.
The Reserve Bank has left the OCR unchanged at a record low but has significantly increased the size of its bond buying programme.
A third person has been arrested and charged over the murder of Upper Hutt woman Lois Tolley in 2016.
Plastic cotton buds, sushi trays, straws and tableware are all on the chopping block as part of the latest Government plan to reduce waste.
And a “fatberg” has almost completely blocked a Gisborne sewer, disrupting traffic in the area. (But I don’t recommend looking at it if you value keeping your breakfast down.)
History was made in the US yesterday with presidential hopeful Joe Biden selecting California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Ms Harris is the first woman of colour to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket and would be the first woman to become Vice President if the Democrats are successful in ousting Donald Trump come November.
And as this New Yorker piece points out, her selection has brought a whole other new meaning to Mr Biden’s campaign.