Friday, February 26, 2021

First Covid-19 death for months in New Zealand a setback

It ended a spell of 102 days free of community transmission in the South Pacific nation.

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New Zealand recorded its first Covid-19 death in more than three months on Friday when a man in his 50s died of the virus.

The man has not been named and was part of a second-wave cluster of infections that emerged in Auckland last month, according to health officials.

It ended a spell of 102 days free of community transmission in the South Pacific nation.

The death takes New Zealand’s toll from the virus to 23, with the most recent previous fatality on May 24.

“I acknowledge the anxiety New Zealanders may be feeling about today’s news,” health chief Ashley Bloomfield said in a statement.

“Our thoughts are with his family and community at this time of loss and grief.”

The man was reportedly the youngest to die from Covid-19 in New Zealand. Health authorities did not say whether he had a pre-existing medical condition.

The Auckland cluster emerged in a family of four and has since grown to 152, including three new cases recorded on Friday.

It has proved difficult to eliminate despite a 2.5-week lockdown in Auckland that ended on Sunday night.

“We have always recognised that further deaths linked to Covid-19 were possible,” Bloomfield said.

“Today’s news reinforces the importance of our shared vigilance against Covid-19.”

Aucklanders were allowed out of their homes this week, but the government limited non-school social gatherings to 10 people and made masks compulsory on public transport nationwide.

The source of the Auckland cluster remains unknown, but genome testing indicates it is not linked to the virus strain that New Zealand experienced earlier this year, which was largely eliminated in a seven-week lockdown that began in late March.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said current indications were that the Auckland cluster was contained but there was no room for complacency.

“We’ve been prepared and, by going hard and early, particularly with Aucklanders pitching in, we look at this early stage to have contained our resurgence,” she told reporters.

“Every country has faced second outbreaks in this global pandemic, and some have turned into significant second waves.”

New Zealand, with its low death rate of 23 in a population of five million, has been hailed as one of the countries most successful at handling the virus.

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