UK COVID-19 Variant Detected in New Zealand

Officials in New Zealand have confirmed that the latest COVID-19 outbreak in the country was the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, prompting a snap lockdown.

Health officials said that the results of genomic testing showed that the three community cases from an Auckland family were the COVID-19 variant B1.1.7.

“This result reinforces the decision to take swift and robust action around the latest cases to detect and stamp out the possibility of any further transmission,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Auckland has been placed under the Alert Level 3 restrictions until Feb. 17, asking employees to work from home and urging students to stay at home. 

This is the second time New Zealand’s biggest city has undergone the emergency restrictions since the 51-day nationwide lockdown last year.

Meanwhile, the rest of New Zealand has been placed under Alert Level 2, restricting gatherings and requiring citizens to wear masks and to practice physical distancing.

It is unclear if the lockdown will extend as health officials continue to investigate the source of the latest cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Radio New Zealand that officials are investigating the possibility that the cases came from a transit passenger and another possibility that it came from international aircrew whose uniforms get cleaned where one of the cases works.

Although, Ardern said that according to experts, there appeared to be no cases anywhere in the world that reported transmission via laundry.

“The most likely scenario is always human-to-human… but even with those lesser likely possibilities we don’t rule them out. We try and explore every possible option,” Ardern told Radio New Zealand.

The three latest cases — a mother, a father, and a daughter — are from the suburb Papatoetoe and have been placed under quarantine.

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