New Zealand on war footing with handful of coronavirus cases

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AUCKLAND | New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was reflecting on Wednesday about a possible postponement of the September elections due to the still modest resurgence of the epidemic, with experts struggling to understand the origin of the new cases in a country free of local contaminations since May.

Health officials were quick to order the containment of Auckland, the country’s largest city, where four probable cases of coronavirus have been identified, in addition to the four that were announced on Tuesday.

A total of 1.5 million residents are required to stay at home for three days, and millions more worried that COVID-19 will return to a country that previously had no recorded local contamination for 102 days.

New Zealand had been set up as an example of good management of the health crisis.

In this context, Ms Ardern warned on Wednesday that she was consulting the electoral commission on the possibility of postponing the elections of September 19 if the new epidemic wave was not contained.

Thwarted countryside

Parliament was legally supposed to be dissolved on Wednesday to allow the ballot to take place on time. But Ms. Ardern announced that she was postponing this dissolution to Monday to give herself time to assess the evolution of the health situation.

“It is at this stage too early to make a decision, but it gives flexibility, if necessary,” said the Labor leader, who is the big favorite in the polls for the election.

The leader of the National Party Judith Collins, at the head of the conservative opposition, however felt that it was necessary to be certain about the holding or not of the elections, by calling for them to be postponed until the end of November, or even the year next.

“It is simply not reasonable to say that we will have fair elections when the opposition parties are not free to campaign,” she said, observing that her party had to cancel the rally. launch of its campaign scheduled for this weekend in Auckland.

New Zealand has been erected by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a model for managing the health crisis.

The country, which has recorded 22 deaths out of a population of five million, had not had a case of transmission inside its territory since May 1.

Tests in a cold room

The origin of the cases which have just been discovered is however unknown.

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said that one of the infected people worked in a cold room in Auckland receiving freight from abroad, and that a working hypothesis was the arrival of the virus with these goods .

“We know that the virus can survive in refrigerated environments for a while,” he said, revealing that tests had been conducted in this cold room.

If this hypothesis is correct, the New Zealand example could have profound implications for world trade, already battered by six months of a pandemic.

Mr. Bloomfield wanted to be reassuring about the management of the resurgence of the epidemic: “We have already experienced this situation, we will get out of it if we work together.”

Meanwhile, Auckland supermarkets were once again the scene of panic, as long queues formed around screening points and masked police officers manned roadside checkpoints. main points to ensure compliance with the new instructions.

The authorities have also taken the drastic decision to close old people’s homes to visitors, Ms. Ardern seeing this as the best way to protect the elderly.

This resurgence of the virus came to interrupt weeks of a life very close to normalcy, when stadiums, performance halls and restaurants could accommodate the public.

A question hung over the holding of the last match of the rugby championship between the Auckland Blues the Canterbury Crusaders, theoretically scheduled for Sunday at Eden Park, sold out in front of 43,000 spectators.

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