Asia Today: New Zealand reports 1st local cases in 102 days

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A news alert is displayed on a mobile phone in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that authorities have found four cases of the coronavirus in one Auckland household from an unknown source, the first cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

NEW DELHI – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday that authorities have found four cases of the coronavirus in one Auckland household from an unknown source, the first reported cases of local transmission in the country in 102 days.

Ardern said Auckland, the nation’s largest city, will be moved to Alert Level 3 from midday Wednesday through midnight Friday, meaning that people will be asked to stay at home, while bars and many other businesses will be closed.

“These three days will give us time to assess the situation, gather information, make sure we have widespread contact tracing so we can find out more about how this case arose and make decisions about how to respond to it once we have further information,” Ardern said at a hastily called news conference late Tuesday.

“I know that this information will be very difficult to receive,” Ardern said. “We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again. But we had also prepared for it. And as a team, we have also been here before.”

She said that traveling into Auckland will be banned unless people live there and are traveling home.

She said the rest of the country will be raised to Level 2 through Friday, meaning that mass gatherings will be limited to 100 attendees and people would need to socially distance themselves from each other.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— An outbreak in Australia’s second-largest city held steady Tuesday, raising hopes the strict lockdown in Melbourne was working. Victoria state, which includes Melbourne, reported 331 new cases and 19 more deaths from COVID-19, equaling the record number of deaths set a day earlier. The number of new infections was less than half the peak days in recent weeks. Meanwhile, health authorities in Sydney were investigating a growing cluster of cases centered around a private Catholic school. The state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reported 22 new cases, including eight that are linked to the school cluster.