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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a news conference at Parliament in Wellington on Wednesday. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand's Defense Force will now oversee the isolation of new arrivals and audit the coronavirus quarantine process, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a news conference on Wednesday.

Driving the news: The country's top health official told a briefing on Thursday afternoon local time that another traveler had tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving at the border, which is closed to all travelers but NZ citizens and residents. Two women returning from the U.K. tested positive on Tuesday — ending New Zealand's 24-day run of no new infections.

What she's saying: Ardern said an "unacceptable failure" led to two women being allowed to leave mandatory quarantine for travelers early to visit a dying parent in Wellington without being tested.

  • "It should never have happened and it cannot be repeated," Ardern said, adding she would temporarily remove a compassionate exemption clause in response to the positive cases.

The big picture: The country lifted all domestic coronavirus restrictions after reporting on June 8 no active cases for the first time since Feb. 28. The Ministry of Health confirmed on Tuesday the two women had tested positive for the virus.

  • Health officials said they're tracing 320 "close contacts" of the sisters, which could include other passengers on their plane and people who were isolating in the same Auckland hotel.
  • New Zealand's border is closed to all travelers except for returning citizens and residents.

Go deeper

Sep 25, 2020 - Health

Florida fully lifts coronavirus restrictions on restaurants

Photo: Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Friday the state will completely reopen its economy, allowing restaurants to operate at full capacity and barring localities from ordering businesses to close.

Why it matters: The state became one of the world's epicenters for the virus in July, forcing DeSantis to pause its first round of reopening.

Updated 27 mins ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.

Ina Fried, author of Login
54 mins ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Microsoft's metaverse maneuvering

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Microsoft is pitching investors and regulators that its $68 billion Activision Blizzard deal is all about the metaverse, that nebulous buzzword taking the tech world by storm.

What they're saying: By my colleague Stephen Totilo's count, Nadella used the word "metaverse" at least five times in his conference call discussing the deal. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned the metaverse four times, while Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer used the term twice.