New Zealand on edge after infected Australian visits

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND (AP) — After enjoying nearly four months without any community transmission of the coronavirus, New Zealanders were on edge yesterday after health authorities said an infectious traveller from Australia had visited over the weekend.

New Zealand has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the pandemic and continues to pursue an elimination strategy.

The country’s response has been among the most effective in the world and the isolated nation of five million people has recorded just 26 COVID-19 deaths. But its vaccination campaign has been far slower than in most developed countries, with just 13 per cent of the population having gotten their first dose.

Although there were no immediate cases confirmed as a result of the traveller’s visit from Sydney to New Zealand’s capital Wellington, authorities were asking people at more than a dozen locations to self-isolate for two weeks and get tested.

They also imposed physical distancing requirements in the Wellington region and restricted crowd sizes to 100 from yesterday evening through Sunday.

Visitors stand outside Te Papa museum in Wellington, New Zealand. PHOTO: AP

“I’m confident that if we do all the things we have done in the past, if people do what is asked of them, we will reduce the risk,” said Director-general of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

Bloomfield said the traveller was linked to a Sydney outbreak of the more contagious Delta variant which originated in India.

The outbreak in Australia’s largest city has grown to 31 cases and led to a tightening of restrictions.

It began last week when a Sydney airport limousine driver tested positive. He was not vaccinated and is suspected to have been infected while transporting a foreign air crew.

Residents living in the worst-affected parts of Sydney have been told they can only travel outside the city for essential reasons. Authorities have also made masks compulsory outside homes and limited the number of household visitors to five.