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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.

  • The country has won global praise for its pandemic response and its economy has rebounded following last year's nationwide lockdown.
  • 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

21 hours ago - Health

Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. Photor: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Louisiana's statewide mask mandate is lifting for all settings except for some schools starting on Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced.

The big picture: The requirement has been in place since early August as the Delta variant surged across the state. Edwards tweeted Tuesday there had been a "sustained improvement across the state in new cases, test positivity & hospitalizations."

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds — Moderna says vaccine shows strong immune response in kids
  2. Health: 96% of Tyson Foods employees vaccinated ahead of mandate deadline — U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers — Those who miss work without pay due to COVID also had food insecurity
  3. Politics: Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools — Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate — Axios-Ipsos poll: Confidence in Biden COVID recovery tumbles
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 26, 2021 - Health

FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel Tuesday endorsed a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5–11. The final vote was 17 members in favor, with one member abstaining.

Why it matters: While not binding, the decision is a long-awaited step toward getting COVID vaccines in the arms of some of the youngest Americans potentially in time to get many fully vaccinated in advance of the holiday season.