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New Zealand on edge after coronavirus-infected Australian visits

  • COURTESY NZ HERALD VIA AP
                                People queue outside a COVID-19 testing station in central Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday.

    COURTESY NZ HERALD VIA AP

    People queue outside a COVID-19 testing station in central Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand >> After enjoying nearly four months without any community transmission of the coronavirus, New Zealanders were on edge Wednesday after health authorities said an infectious traveler from Australia had visited over the weekend.

New Zealand has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the virus and continues to pursue an elimination strategy.

The country’s response has been among the most effective in the world and the nation of 5 million people has recorded just 26 coronavirus deaths. But its vaccination campaign has been far slower than in most developed countries, with just 11% of the population having gotten their first dose.

So although there were no immediate cases confirmed as a result of the traveler’s visit from Sydney to New Zealand’s capital Wellington, authorities were asking people at more than a dozen locations to self-isolate for two weeks and get tested.

Authorities were due to announce any broader changes to restrictions later Wednesday. New Zealand also stopped quarantine-free travel from the Australian state of New South Wales for at least three days.

New Zealand and Australia opened a quarantine-free travel bubble in April, although that bubble has been temporarily halted several times as Australia has dealt with small community outbreaks.

Health authorities said the traveler had visited New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa as well as a number of restaurants, stores and tourist spots. Te Papa announced it was closed and would provide updates as the situation unfolded.

Health authorities said the traveler visited Wellington from Saturday through Monday before returning to Australia and testing positive for COVID-19. They said four close contacts of the traveler were self-isolating.

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