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New Zealand's largest city locks down after just four people test positive for COVID-19

The country had no new cases for 102 days

Shoppers shop at a supermarket in the suburb of Johnsonville in Wellington on Aug. 11, 2020. Auckland has been at level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country has moved to level 2 after a family in South Auckland tested positive for COVID-19. (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, has placed its residents back on lockdown after a family of four tested positive for COVID-19, The Hill reported.

The entire country of New Zealand had gone more than three months without a single recorded local case of the virus. Still, when one family in South Auckland tested positive, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern not only locked down the city, but placed restrictions on the rest of the country.

The lockdown orders triggered a response similar to the response to the first round of lockdowns around the world: panic buying and economic anxiety for business owners and employees. From Reuters (emphasis added):

News of the cases sent panic across the country with media reporting people rushing to supermarkets to stock up, and businesses preparing to shut.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland would move to level 3 restriction from noon on Wednesday as a "precautionary approach", which would mean people should stay away from work and school, and gatherings or more than 10 people would again be restricted.

Outside Auckland, lighter COVID-19 restrictions will return, including social distancing and a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people.

"This is something we have prepared for," Ardern said during a press conference, according to Reuters. "We have had a 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."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff tried to keep residents' fears under control as they return to a state of lockdown.

"I am urging Aucklanders to come together like we did last time to stamp out community transmission," Goff said in a statement. "Please remain calm, please do not panic buy, and please follow the lockdown rules.

New Zealand's severe response to four cases, after 102 days with no cases, shows the difficulty that is created when the goal of public health measures is to fully eliminate the virus, rather than to slow the spread, isolate positive cases, and protect vulnerable populations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading voice on the White House coronavirus response task force, has said COVID-19 is so contagious that it's unlikely to ever disappear, and there's no guarantee that a safe and effective vaccine will be created.

One last thing…
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