Four new coronavirus cases were identified in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, breaking a 102-day streak of no new cases in the country.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a citywide lockdown as a “precautionary approach,” Reuters reported. The nation will move to level 3 of its virus restrictions, meaning New Zealanders will stay home from work and school and they will not be allowed to gather in groups of 10 or more.
The new restrictions will last from Wednesday to Friday, Ardern said. During that time, officials will analyze the situation and conduct contact tracing.
“This is something we have prepared for,” she said in a news conference Tuesday. “We have had 102 days and it was easy to feel New Zealand was out of the woods. No country has gone as far as we did without having a resurgence. And because we were the only ones, we had to plan. And we have planned.”
All travel into Auckland will be restricted for nonresidents, she added. Meanwhile, the remainder of the country will enter the second level of restrictions for the same three-day period. Mass gatherings will be limited to 100 people and social distancing measures will be reimposed.
“I am urging Aucklanders to come together like we did last time to stamp out community transmission,” Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said, according to Reuters. “Please remain calm, please do not panic buy and please follow the lockdown rules.”
The news comes just over a month before the country’s national election, set for Sept. 19. Ardern is comfortably ahead in the polls, but the opposition National Party said the end of the coronavirus-free streak was a referendum on the country’s leadership.
“This will come as a shock to all New Zealanders who believed what we had been told – that we had got on top of this virus,” National Party Leader Judith Collins said.
The country locked down on Feb. 26 after its first known case of the virus, and recorded its last case of community transmission May 1. Sunday marked 100 days with no known domestic transmission.