KEY POINTS

  • Auckland, New Zealand, reentered level 3 lockdown after four new cases of coronavirus were confirmed
  • Business and schools have been closed and residents were asked to wear masks in public if they need to go out
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said investigators believed they had identified the source of the new coronavirus cases

After the first coronavirus cases popped up in New Zealand after more than three months, the country’s largest city reentered lockdown Wednesday in an attempt to head off another spike.

“As we have seen in other countries where a resurgence occurs, it’s incredibly important to act early,” Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters. “We have done this before and we can do it again.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she is weighting delaying New Zealand's upcoming election Wednesday, as experts investigated whether the coronavirus could have re-entered the country through freight shipments, AFP reported.

As of Wednesday, New Zealand had 1,584 confirmed cases and 22 reported deaths from coronavirus.

The city of Auckland was placed in lockdown after four members of a local family tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday. Officials imposed level 3 restrictions on the city of 1.7 million people, shuttering all businesses, schools, public facilities, and restaurants and bars. Residents have been encouraged to remain at home and to wear a mask in public if they need to go out for essentials.

Auckland police have also setup roadblocks to prevent a mass exit from the city while long lines have been reported at most testing locations in the city.

“If we get our immediate response right in this critical phase, we have the opportunity to lessen the time that we will have those heavier restrictions, and that’s a lesson that we have all learned together,”  Ardern said during a press briefing.

Government officials were investigating and already identified a possible source of the newest coronavirus cases.  Ardern said investigators suspected the virus was imported by freight, where it survived in a refrigerated space. The suspected contents from the freight were then sent to an Auckland branch of the U.S.-based Americold Realty Trust, where one of the four people who tested positive on Tuesday works.

Director General Bloomfield said surfacing testing was being conducted on the storefront to confirm the investigators’ suspicions and catch more cases before the situation escalates.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged New Zealanders to remain calm as the first community transmission of the coronavirus was reported in more than 100 days Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged New Zealanders to remain calm as the first community transmission of the coronavirus was reported in more than 100 days Photo: AFP / Marty MELVILLE