New Zealand raises COVID alert level in capital after infected Aussie visits
New Zealand's capital Wellington had its COVID-19 alert level raised on Wednesday after an Australian contracted a highly infectious strain in Sydney before traveling to NZ and testing positive upon his return.
Why it matters: This is the first positive case related to the Australia-New Zealand quarantine-free "travel bubble" since it opened in April. NZ last confirmed a COVID infection in the community on Feb. 28.
- The government has also paused travel between New Zealand and the state of New South Wales — where a growing cluster of over 30 cases in state capital Sydney prompted officials to impose restrictions including on travel outside the metropolitan area.
Details: Wellington is now at alert level two under NZ's strict four-tier coronavirus response system, which limits gatherings to 100, after it emerged the traveler infected with the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant had visited several locations in the city.
- Health Minister Chris Hipkins stressed at a news conference in Wellington: "This is not a lockdown ... these are precautionary measures which will remain in place while we contact trace and test all of those we need to."
The big picture: The coronavirus vaccine rollout in both Australia and New Zealand has been slower than other OECD nations, with 21% of the Australian population receiving at least one dose and 11% in New Zealand as of June 15, per AAP.
Between the lines: New Zealand's government has implemented a targeted rollout using only the Pfizer vaccine, focusing on border and quarantine facility workers and vulnerable groups.
- It's due to begin a staggered rollout to the general population on July 28 and aims to have 90% vaccine coverage by the year's end.
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she thought it important for pandemic-stricken countries to distribute the vaccine first.