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New Zealand's Mysterious COVID Outbreak Grows

There are now 17 cases
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 13, 2020 2:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – A puzzling new outbreak of the coronavirus in New Zealand's largest city grew to 17 cases on Thursday, with officials saying the number will likely increase further. And a lockdown in Auckland designed to extinguish the outbreak could be extended well beyond an initial three days, the AP reports. It was a turnabout from Sunday, when the South Pacific nation of 5 million marked 100 days without any cases of local transmission. For most people, life had long returned to normal as they sat down in packed sports stadiums and restaurants or went to school without the fear of getting infected. The only cases for months had been a handful of returning travelers who have been quarantined at the border. But then earlier this week, health workers discovered four infections in one Auckland household. The source of the new infections continues to stump officials.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said genome testing has not yet matched the new cluster with any infections that have been caught at the border, although the testing has indicated the strain of the virus may have come from Australia or Britain. The good news for health officials about the latest 13 cases is that they could all be linked through work and family to the initial four cases, meaning there is no evidence yet of a wider community outbreak. Officials say they tested just over 6,000 people on Wednesday. Bloomfield said he expected that sooner or later the new cases would be linked to somebody who had arrived in the country with an infection or a worker at a quarantine facility, airport or maritime port. Some of those infected work at an Auckland refrigerated food facility, leading to speculation the virus could have survived from abroad on chilled or frozen food. Bloomfield said they were testing the facility but he thought that scenario was unlikely and that the virus had most likely spread from person to person.

(Read more New Zealand stories.)

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