A new case of Covid-19 has been detected in the community in Auckland and forced the country to Level 4, Marc Daalder reports

New Zealand will move to Level 4 from 11:59pm tonight. This will last for seven days in Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula and for three days in the rest of the country.

Level 4 is the strictest alert level possible. Everyone is required to stay home except for essential work, grocery shopping, exercise and medical care. People should remain within their bubbles. Those living alone can bubble up with one other person, but they must only share a bubble with each other.

Schools are closed. Workplaces, except a narrow range deemed essential businesses, are closed. When people leave home, they are encouraged to wear a mask. A potential mask mandate will be discussed more on Wednesday.

“We know that this strategy works, we know that we are a strong team of 5 million, and we know that life will get easier, we just need to keep going,” Jacinda Ardern said.

She called on the team of five million to “unite once more”.

The decision from Cabinet comes after a new case of Covid-19 was detected in Auckland. The case, a 58-year-old man from Devonport, is considered to be infectious from Thursday, August 12. He and his wife visited the Coromandel over the weekend.

While genome sequencing of the case isn’t due until early Wednesday morning, the Government has chosen to treat the situation as if it involves the far more transmissible Delta strain of the coronavirus. All of the Covid-19 cases caught at the border in the past three weeks – and all but one since late June – have been Delta, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.

The man is not vaccinated, but was seeking a booking, and his wife is vaccinated. She tested negative after being swabbed on Monday.

Bloomfield said the fact that there is not yet an obvious link between the new case and the border or MIQ means this is a national issue. The virus could have spread to other locations or been imported from somewhere else in the country.

The first locations of interest for contact tracing have been published on the Ministry of Health’s website. The most up-to-date information can be found at this link. There are 23 locations of interest so far, helped by the fact that the case was a frequent user of the NZ COVID Tracer app.

The move to Level 4 will force the vaccine rollout to halt for 48 hours, Jacinda Ardern said. Officials will work to figure out how to safely roll out the immunisation programme at Level 4 and updates on this are expected in the next 24 hours.

Ardern said she wanted to start at a high alert level and then be able to move down more quickly, rather than choosing a less restrictive level and have to maintain restrictions for longer.

“We are better to start high and be cautious and move out as soon as we have the comfort to do so, than start too low and be in that phase for much, much longer,” she said.

“We only need to look at Australia to see the alternative.”

In New South Wales, the Delta variant continues to spread despite some restrictions being in place since the start of July. Only when more than 400 new cases were reported in a single day did the state move to a Level 4-like lockdown this past weekend.

Some of the key information officials and ministers are looking for over the coming days include the results from surged testing in Auckland (to discover the extent of any outbreak), the results of the genome sequencing and the results of wastewater testing. A sample of North Shore wastewater from August 11 tested negative. A sample taken today is still being processed, but a positive result could indicate a more widespread outbreak.

Anyone who is not currently in the city they live is encouraged to head home as soon as possible.

“We want people to move as quickly as they can to get where they need to be,” Ardern said.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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