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A security guard turns away visitors to Te Papa National Museum in Wellington, New Zealand, which closed due to being identified as a COVID-19 exposure site following the Australian's visit. Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images

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.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Booster shots overtake first doses in the U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate entire Brazilian city as part of study — FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adultsU.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers on Nov. 8.
  2. Health: New cases down, but the West is at risk — Low vaccination rates exacerbate America's caregiving crisis — COVID is here to stay. So what does "victory" look like? — FDA will review Merck COVID-19 pill.
  3. Politics: NHL announces all but four players have been vaccinated — WHO names new advisory group on COVID origins — Biden admin warns Moderna to "step up" global vaccine supply.
  4. Education: LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations amid staffing shortage — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive — Arizona can't use aid for anti-mask education grants, Treasury says.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Ben Geman, author of Generate
8 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Updated 10 hours ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."