Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern forced New Zealand into nationwide lockdowns on Tuesday after detecting the country’s first positive case of COVID-19 in six months. Schools, offices, and businesses will be shut down, with only essential services remaining open.
Ardern urged the population, which hasn’t seen an outbreak since February, to take extreme measures immediately to eliminate the virus.
JUST IN – New Zealand to enter nationwide lockdown after detecting 1st local case for 170 days: "Do not talk to your neighbors."pic.twitter.com/jCJSU5g0nw
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“The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard,” Ardern said Tuesday. “We have made the decision on the basis that it is better to start high and go down levels rather than to go low, not contain the virus, and see it move quickly.”
All of New Zealand will be under level-four lockdown for at least three days until health officials determine if the positive case is linked to the delta variant. Residents in Auckland and Coromandel, where the infected case spent time, are under a seven-day lockdown.
Ardern said her abrupt announcement came down to “very simple principles:”
“Stay local. Do not congregate. Don’t talk to your neighbors. Please, keep to your bubbles,” Ardern begged, saying her abrupt announcement came down to “very simple principles.” “We know from overseas cases of the delta variant that it can be spread by people simply walking past one another. So keep those movements outside to the bare minimum, wear a mask, and make sure you keep up that physical distancing.”
Despite Ardern’s doom-and-gloom messaging to the citizens of her own country, the prime minister has taken quite a different tone in her global pronouncements. After Taliban fighters seized Kabul, Ardern called on the terrorist group to uphold human rights in Afghanistan, noting the importance of a woman’s right to work and learn and requesting that the Taliban let people who want to leave the country go.
“I would just again implore those who made these moves in recent days to acknowledge what the international community has called for — human rights and the safety of their people,” Ardern said at a news conference in the capital of Wellington. “What we want to see is women and girls being able to access work and education. These are things that have traditionally not been available to them where there has been governance by Taliban.”
Ardern’s strong stance against not letting people work, learn, or leave the country, however, doesn’t extend to her own citizens. Under a level-four lockdown, all gatherings are canceled, all public venues are closed, and New Zealanders are discouraged from taking “unnecessary” trips outdoors.
Since the onset of COVID, the country has recorded about 2,500 cases and 26 deaths in a population of 5 million.