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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference in Auckland, New Zealand, on Friday. Photo: Lynn Grieveson - Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday it was "absolutely right" for New Zealand's most populous city to lock down, after genome sequencing linked a COVID-19 outbreak in an Auckland family to a more virulent strain.

Why it matters: It's the first time the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the U.K. has been found in NZ. Auckland locked down late Sunday for three days over the three community cases amid concern it might be a more contagious strain.

  • Restrictions weren't imposed for the rest of New Zealand, but social distancing and other precautions will be reintroduced — just as the country's events season heats up.
  • There had been no restrictions in NZ since last October.

Driving the news: The mother and her daughter tested positive for the coronavirus on  Saturday and the father on Sunday, per the Ministry of Health.

  • Scientists have yet to determine the origins of the community cases. But the mother works at the city's airport, where newly returned New Zealand travelers pass through on their way to managed hotel quarantine.
  • Ardern said during a Sunday news conference that a three-day "should give us enough time to gather further information, undertake large scale testing and establish if there has been wider community transmission."

For the record: Auckland entered level 3 restrictions under NZ's four-tier alert level system, with people urged to stay in their household "bubbles." Gatherings of up to 10 are permitted in exceptional circumstances, such as funerals.

  • Public venues must close and only essential services like pharmacies and grocery stores can open for in-person contact, with distancing measures in place.

The big picture: This is Auckland's third lockdown. Level 3 restrictions were imposed in August, before being moved down to level 2 by the month's end. All domestic restrictions were removed in October.

By the numbers: There are currently 47 active COVID-19 cases, with 44 in managed hotel isolation.

  • A total of 1,974 cases have been confirmed since the pandemic reached New Zealand last March.

Of note: Ardern announced Monday that the first batch of coronavirus vaccines had arrived in New Zealand. Border staff are expected to become the first to receive doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this Saturday.

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

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull.
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free — Government website for free COVID tests launches early.
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker
Feb 14, 2021 - Health

Study on Pfizer vaccine shows 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A recent study by Israel’s largest healthcare provider found that after both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, people are 94% less likely to have symptomatic COVID-19 infections and 92% fewer cases of severe illness due to the virus, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Israel has been rapidly vaccinating its population, and the new study underscores how effective the vaccine is, as the data nearly matches Pfizer's Phase three clinical trial that showed the vaccine to be 95% effective.

Fauci says he feels for single people on Valentine's Day 2021

President Biden's chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, expressed sympathy for single people trying to enjoy Valentine's Day during the pandemic in an interview with "Axios on HBO," saying it would be stressful and frustrating to date while social distancing and trying to stay safe.

  • Fauci said he and his wife planned a quiet Valentine's Day dinner at home alone, but he empathized: "It would be really frustrating to essentially semi-isolate yourself at a time when you're trying to explore social interactions with people. That leads to a considerable amount of stress and maybe even depression on the part of some people."