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Golden Covid-19 Run Could End In New Zealand

New Zealand could lose its 116-day run without community transmission after a traveler from Sydney visited Wellington with virus.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Wellingtonians will today return to a daily ritual they thought they’d left in the past: monitoring briefings for new Covid-19 cases, as the threat of a lockdown, looms.

The New Zealand capital is on edge after a traveler, believed to infectious with the deadly virus, visited from Sydney on the weekend.

The man traveled to the national museum, Te Papa, and a string of cafés and restaurants, meaning thousands in Wellington have been asked to isolate and get tested.

University of Otago professor Michael Baker said the man could have unwittingly produced “the worst-case scenario”.

“They spent the whole weekend in indoor venues and literally have contact with thousands of people,” Baker said.

The man traveled to the national museum, Te Papa, and a string of cafes and restaurants, meaning thousands in Wellington have been asked to isolate and get tested. (Diana Plater/AAP Image)

“This can cause huge amounts of transmission of the virus. That’s a big threat.”

Michael George Baker MNZM is an epidemiologist with the University of Otago. Baker is a member of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s Academy and of the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s Pandemic Influenza Technical Advisory Group.

Jacinda Ardern’s government raised its Covid-19 alert level for the Wellington region from one to two on June 23.

The new rules — which will last until Sunday at the earliest – include social distancing, limits on gathering sizes, and work-from-home arrangements.

The next step, should new cases emerge, would be level three: a lockdown.

The first hint of whether that will be necessary will come at 1 pm NZST when health officials announce their daily case numbers — a Covid-era custom in New Zealand.

Some, including University of Auckland medicine professor Des Gorman, believe the capital should already be in lockdown.

“Once there were a few cases (in New South Wales) which weren’t easy to account for the bubble should’ve been closed,” he said to the press.

The New Zealand capital is on edge after a traveller, believed to infectious with the deadly virus, visited from Sydney on the weekend. (Joel Carrett/AAP Image)

Genomic testing, expected on June 24, should show a link to Sydney’s Bondi cluster, and whether he had the infectious Delta variant.

Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said a move to lockdown was not yet necessary to contain the virus.

“We’re not seeing any positive results,” he said.

“This is the first time we’ve escalated alert levels without there being a single new positive result in New Zealand. So this is a precautionary measure.”

Unlike Auckland, which has returned to lockdown three times since New Zealand’s major lockdown, Wellington has not done so since the nationwide clampdown which ended in May 2020.

On the evening of June 22, New Zealand also paused quarantine-free travel from New South Wales until June 25.

It is expected to lengthen that ban as soon as June 24.

(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Ritaban Misra)

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