Updated Aug 17, 2021 - World

New Zealand enters nationwide lockdown after new Delta case

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses media during a post cabinet press conference at Parliament on June 28, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a June press conference. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand entered a snap nationwide lockdown at its highest level Tuesday night after a 58-year-old man from Auckland tested positive for COVID-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced.

Why it matters: This was the first coronavirus case detected in New Zealand for nearly six months and officials were concerned the man had the highly contagious Delta variant. By Wednesday morning local time, scientists confirmed he had the Delta variant and four other people had tested positive for the virus.

  • New Zealand has only experienced a level 4 lockdown once before, early in the pandemic.
  • This is only the second lockdown for communities outside Auckland, New Zealand's most populous city, since the pandemic began. Auckland has previously locked down under the less-severe alert level 3 since the first alert level 4 lockdown.

Driving the news: Ardern noted at a news conference Tuesday that the decision to lock down was made because most residents in hotel quarantine who returned from abroad infected in recent weeks had the Delta variant.

  • The national lockdown will last for three days, from 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
  • Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, which the man recently visited, will likely experience this for seven days.
  • The government paused vaccinations for 48 hours.

What they're saying: "Going hard and early has worked for us before," Ardern said, noting how the country has quickly stamped out the virus from the community previously.

  • "While we know that Delta is a more dangerous enemy to combat, the same actions that overcome the virus last year can be applied to beat it again."

The big picture: New Zealand has largely contained COVID-19 cases to managed hotel quarantine facilities, having effectively closed the border to nonresidents in March last year.

  • Before this local case, bars, restaurants and events were packed and the only domestic pandemic measures were face mask requirements on planes and public transport.

By the numbers: Since the pandemic began, NZ has recorded 2,926 COVID-19 cases in the country of 5 million and 26 people have died from the virus.

How it works: Under alert level 4 restrictions, schools move to remote classes and nonessential businesses close — including restaurant food delivery services. Only essential travel is permitted, and water activities like swimming are banned.

  • People must remain at home unless they're exercising outdoors, sticking to their neighborhoods and within their household "bubbles."

Go deeper: New Zealand to gradually reopen to the world next year

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper