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Most of New Zealand will return to Alert Level 2 today after community transmission of Covid-19 was confirmed for the first time in 102 days.
At a hastily called press conference at the Beehive last night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield announced four new Covid-19 cases had been confirmed in Auckland.
- Check the Covid-19 website
- Alert Level 2 rules
• No more than 100 people at a gathering
• Work from home if possible
• Practise social distancing
• Hospitality customers must be separated, seated and served by a single person
• Schools, childcare facilities open as usual
They were all members of one family. A person in their 50s was confirmed to have the virus yesterday, and three other members of their family living in the same residence also tested positive.
They had no link to overseas travel or managed isolation. The source of the transmission was unknown.
Most of New Zealand will move to Level 2 at noon today, while Auckland will move to Level 3.
The levels will remain in place until midnight on Friday.
As the source of transmission was unknown, a precautionary measure was needed, "as disruptive as it is", Ms Ardern said.
Dr Bloomfield described the cases as a wake-up call against complacency. But, he said, the health system was well prepared.
"We have done this before and we can do it again."
For most of the country, Level 2 means mass gatherings must be limited to 100 people.
Skifields were likely to be affected; Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr said Coronet Peak and The Remarkables would be closed today.
Staff met last night to plan. It would be "incredibly challenging", he said.
A University of Otago spokeswoman last night said it was working through what the announcement meant for lectures, and would communicate with students this morning.
For Auckland, Level 3 means people should work from home unless they are essential service workers.
Schools will close unless they have pupils whose parents are essential workers. Public facilities, bars, restaurants and businesses must close.
Close contacts have been isolated for 14 days regardless of their test results. Casual contacts are also being isolated and cannot leave until they test negative.
Workers at the border are also being tested.
Dr Bloomfield said additional testing would be available around the country to meet the expected increase in demand.
He advised aged residential care facilities to stop all visits, given how vulnerable older people were to Covid-19.
Ms Ardern said New Zealand had gone the longest of any country without transmission and there was a plan being actioned.
"My request is not to be dispirited or disheartened."
— Additional reporting Louise Scott