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Coronavirus: New Zealand confirms 13 more COVID-19 cases as Auckland outbreak grows

Health authorities are investigating whether shipping workers were a source of New Zealand’s first domestic coronavirus outbreak in more than three months — after another double digit day of cases.

The outbreak has grown to 30 people and extended beyond Auckland, the country’s largest city, for the first time.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to announce later whether a three-day lockdown in Auckland would be extended past Friday, which seemed likely given the increase in cases.

Until the cluster was discovered earlier this week, New Zealand had gone 102 days without community-spread infections, with the only known cases all international travellers quarantined after arriving.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to lengthen a newly introduced lockdown in Auckland later today.
Camera IconPrime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to lengthen a newly introduced lockdown in Auckland later today. Credit: Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

Health officials don’t believe the virus was lurking undetected in the community for months but believe it started with a returning traveller or a border worker.

But stumped officials have yet to discover the origins.

All but one of the 30 cases in the outbreak are linked, most through family or work connections.

Medical staff take a COVID-19 test from a visitor to a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Camera IconMedical staff take a COVID-19 test from a visitor to a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. Credit: Mark Baker/AP

The only known infections outside Auckland were two people in the central North Island town of Tokoroa who were linked to the Auckland cluster by a family visit. Officials said they thought the chances were low the virus would spread further in Tokoroa.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said they had only just started investigating the 30th case, which was the most recent found and the first person in the outbreak to be hospitalized.

“All of the cases so far, at this point, are connected. They are all part of one Auckland-based cluster,” said Health Minister Chris Hipkins.

“And that is good news.”

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