New Zealand has reported its first locally won case of Covid-19 in more than three weeks on the eve of an electoral victory for Jacinda Ardern’s Labor party, dealt a blow to hopes the country had eliminated the virus within its shores.
The positive test was recorded on Saturday – election day in New Zealand – by a person who worked on ships anchored in the ports of Auckland and Taranaki. Authorities said the matter was caught early and the danger contained, as the man’s close contacts are undergoing testing and the hotels where he stayed have been thoroughly cleaned.
News of the latest Covid-19 issue follows Saturday’s broad electoral victory of the ruling Labor party, which will see Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern serve a second term in office. Labor achieved its best result in half a century on the eve of a campaign based on the skilful handling of the 40-year-old Covid-19 leader, which has caused just 25 deaths in New Zealand.
Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director general of health, said the test would be speeded up to contain any possible spread of the virus. He said the most likely source of the new issue was the ships on which the man worked, rather than a previous Covid-19 blast in Auckland in August, which ended a 100-day series without a locally won case.
“This is very likely to be a border-related case and so far there is no evidence of ongoing community transmission,” Mr Bloomfield said, adding the prompt response from authorities indicated their systems were working. “The issue is another reminder that Covid-19 will not disappear any time soon.”
New Zealand virus transmission in the community was eradicated in late September for the second time since the Auckland outbreak in August. In recent weeks New Zealand has been able to lift almost all social distance restrictions prohibiting the closure of its international borders and strict quarantine arrangements for returnees.
The reappearance of a locally won case of Covid-19 is likely to spark criticism from a vocal minority of domestic and international critics, who warn of severe blockages are unstable.
In August, President Trump appeared to criticize Ms. Ardern’s treatment of the pandemic, telling reporters New Zealand was in the clutches of a ‘massive explosion’ and the US did not want such a ‘big rise’. New Zealand has reported 1,530 cases of Covid-19, compared to more than 8 million in the US
But Labor’s electoral victory rate – it is on track to win a majority of seats in parliament for the first time since 1996 – suggests the harsh blockade policy retains overwhelming public support.
Richard Shaw, professor of politics at Massey University, said the Workers’ victory in New Zealand’s Covid-19 election could provide lessons for politicians in other nations facing voters.
“Do it as an adult. Listen to people who know what they are talking about. Do not talk about the trash of the opposition. “Mostly, understand where the average voter lives and stay there,” he said.
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