Par Praveen Menon
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand authorities are investigating whether the first cases of the new coronavirus identified in more than three months may be linked to imports of goods, as Auckland, the country’s largest city, returned to confinement on Wednesday.
Against this background, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday the postponement of the dissolution of Parliament, a major step ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for next month.
She said in a televised press conference that she would suspend the dissolution of parliament, which was due to take place before the September 19 elections, until Monday. She said, however, that no decision had been made yet on a possible postponement of the elections.
“It is too early to make decisions but there is little flexibility to move the election date if necessary,” the leader said, adding that the poll could have been organized on any date before November 21.
The discovery of these four new cases of infection, all within the same Auckland family, led Jacinda Ardern to announce on Tuesday the city’s reinstatement of strict containment measures – with travel limited to essentials, for example – and the tightening of restrictions. in the rest of the country.
Auckland’s 1.7 million residents only had a few hours to prepare for re-containment. Police set up roadblocks to prevent a mass exodus while supermarkets facing a rush of customers were rationing the sale of some basic goods. Long queues formed in front of the city’s test centers.
These measures are currently in effect until Friday, when the government will decide on the next steps.
Food packaging path?
After 102 days without local pollution in New Zealand, the origin of this family home has alarmed health authorities, and the investigation is now focused on the hypothesis of access via imported goods.
“We’re working hard to piece together the puzzle of this family’s pollution,” Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said in a televised news conference.
He said tests were underway at the Oakland cold store where a man from this family works. “We know that the virus can survive for a long time in a refrigerated environment,” Ashley Bloomfield said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has specified on its website that no cases of SARS-CoV-2 have been identified through food or food packaging so far, emphasizing that according to some studies, the virus can survive for up to to 72 hours. on a plastic surface.
In recent weeks, China has reported several cases of detecting the novel coronavirus on packages of imported frozen seafood.
Richard Winall, managing director of the New Zealand branch of American Realty Trust – an American cold chain company – owner of this warehouse, told the NZ Herald daily that this employee had been on sick leave for several days and that all of his colleagues had been sent home for testing.
The investigation revealed that two members of this family home had visited tourist sites in Rotorua, a town about three hours’ drive south of Auckland, and a third visited his workplace, a financial firm in Auckland, while they were showing symptoms. .
According to the Director-General of Health, four people who have been in contact with this family are considered probable cases. He said that more than 200 people have been identified as contacts and the authorities are ready to test tens of thousands of people in the coming days.
(French version by Jean Terzian and Myriam Rivette, Editing by Henri-Pierre André)
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