New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday, August 17, that the country's general election has been postponed by a month until October 17 following the recent resurgence in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the northern city of Auckland. The September 19 election had been expected to be delayed after several opposition parties complained of campaigning limitations due to current COVID-19-related restrictions in the country, but Ardern has insisted that there will be no further delays in the polls.
After 102 days without confirming any new COVID-19 infections, cases of the virus were detected in Auckland on August 11, prompting authorities to introduce level three lockdown restrictions in the city. The restrictions place limits on non-essential travel to other regions, with those in the city expected to stay at their residences as much as possible and only travel for work, education, shopping, or exercise. Public gatherings are limited to ten people and non-essential events prohibited. Public venues, restaurants, bars, and cafes are also expected to close, although can continue to provide takeaway services. Those in the city have been encouraged to work from home wherever possible, while schools only remain open for children of essential workers and vulnerable groups. Initially in place for three days, the lockdown has since been extended until at least August 26 after the number of identified active COVID-19 cases continued to increase. As of Monday, 78 active cases have been confirmed.
The rest of the country will be placed under level two COVID-19 mitigation measures during this period, with most businesses allowed to remain open with social distancing measures in place and gatherings of up to 100 people allowed.
The New Zealand border remains closed to almost all arrivals. Anyone entering the country must undergo quarantine or managed isolation in an approved facility for a minimum of 14 days. Arrivals must then test negative for COVID-19 before entering the community.
As of August 17, the Health Ministry has confirmed 1631 cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand and 22 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the disease is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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