New Zealand virus outbreak spreads beyond Auckland

AUCKLAND, Aug 14, 2020 (AFP) - New Zealand’s resurgent coronavirus outbreak has spread beyond Auckland, health officials said Friday, in a major blow to efforts to contain the disease.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said there were 12 more cases of community transmission, and one probable, following the shock re-emergence of the virus in Auckland this week.

He said two of the infections were found in the North Island town of Tokoroa, around 210 kilometres (130 miles) south of Auckland.

The infections outside Auckland come despite a strict lockdown in New Zealand’s largest city, including masked police blocking roads to seal its borders.

It has resulted in around 30 people from Tokoroa who were in close contact with the infected pair being taken into quarantine and tested.

Hipkins played down fears that the failure to ring-fence infections to Auckland meant the virus could now be rampant elsewhere.

“All of the cases so far are connected, they are all part of one Auckland-based cluster, that’s good news,” he said, adding that the Tokoroa cases were identified quickly.

“We’ve seen no evidence of a COVID-19 case outside of Auckland that is unrelated to the cluster we are dealing with.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce later Friday whether Auckland’s lockdown will be extended, and whether the area affected by the restrictions should be enlarged beyond the city.