Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield earlier said there were seven cases linked to the original patient, including a teacher and a fully vaccinated health professional at Auckland Hospital who worked four shifts while potentially infectious. He said 16 close contacts had been identified. Most had been contacted, were isolating and would get tested. Four of those were fully vaccinated, and a couple were partially vaccinated.
Bloomfield said most cases were in people in their 20s. As a result, he expected there would be many locations of interest, such as bars and restaurants where contact is close. Between 50 and 100 cases could now be expected in the community, according to modelling exercises, he said.
New Zealand began a strict, nationwide three-day lockdown on Wednesday with news it now has five cases of COVID-19 in the community and confirmation it is facing the Delta variant.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Health said the original case in a 58-year-old man had been confirmed as Delta. It was the first community case since February.
Auckland and the nearby Coromandel region where the man and his wife visited have begun a seven-day lockdown.
It is the country’s first nationwide closure since the initial pandemic response over a year ago, and it has the potential to rewrite its economic and fiscal outlook.
Some economists said the central bank would now hold off delivering a rate increase later on Wednesday to gauge the impact of the lockdown on growth, while the government has said it will resume programs to assist affected workers and businesses that could cost billions of dollars.
The country has so far largely kept the virus out of the community, allowing its economy to recover quickly during the pandemic.
But a slow vaccine rollout has left it vulnerable to another outbreak, particularly of the Delta strain that is challenging virus containment efforts around the world.
All schools, public venues and most businesses must close and people are urged to wear a face covering if they need to venture out. Only shops providing essential services such as groceries, petrol and health products can stay open.
Less than 20 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Hospital authorities have taken immediate action to shut down any potential spread at Auckland Hospital, including testing all staff and patients on the ward where the health professional worked.
Bloomberg, Stuff, staff reporters