New Zealand‘s deputy prime minister claims the nation’s shock coronavirus outbreak spread throughout the community following a ‘breach’ inside the quarantine system.
Winston Peters told local media a ‘reliable’ journalist gave him the information after the nation recorded a further 14 new cases on Thursday.
‘It wasn’t an official, I found out from somewhere else, but I think there’s been a breach inside our quarantine system,’ he told ABC 24 News.
‘I think, when that comes out very shortly, in a matter of maybe less than day, we’ll find out that was the case. But you don’t always find out from your officials.’
Mr Peters said he doubted the virus had survived undetected within the community for so long. New Zealand celebrated 102 days of zero community transmission prior to the outbreak.
‘I don’t know where this quarantine breach may have happened, but I think you can eliminate it being some new strain of COVID-19 that hitherto my country hadn’t seen,’ he said.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office refuted the claims.
A police officer wearing a mask gets his morning coffee from The Store in Kohimarama as Auckland wakes to a return to Stage Three lockdown (pictured on Thursday)
A man wearing a face mask is seen in downtown Auckland, New Zealand on Wednesday (pictured)
Winston Peters told local media a ‘reliable’ journalist made the shock allegations after the nation recorded a further 14 new cases on Thursday
He said ‘no connection between managed isolation and these cases have been established at this point’.
Authorities are investigating the possibility the virus was imported in on refrigerated freight after word spread the first case was an employee at a warehouse which handled frozen goods.
Mr Peters, the leader of the New Zealand First party, did not suggest the virus escaped through any fault of the quarantine program or authorities managing it.
He referenced the bungled hotel isolation program in Victoria, which has been linked to potentially every new case in the state’s second wave.
‘In Melbourne’s case, of course, it was – how shall I say it without being too critical? – pretty slack oversight and supervision, where it was put in the hands of private industry, which was a disaster,’ he said.
‘In our case, we got the army in early enough to know that wouldn’t have been the problem. But there’s been a breach, and we’ll find out in a matter of hours, or within a day.’
But Mr Peters was quick to reiterate that all information was currently speculative and still under investigation.
Two businesses in Auckland have so far been linked to the fresh coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand
Two women wearing face masks and carrying toilet paper walk on a street in downtown Auckland, New Zealand (pictured on Wednesday night)
People line up in front of a supermarket in downtown Auckland, New Zealand as lockdown began (pictured on Thursday)
A young woman talks on her phone wearing a mask in front of a shop along Cuba Street in Wellington on Thursday
Of the new cases diagnosed on Thursday, 13 have been linked to the Auckland cluster which plunged the nation back into lockdown.
Just one is a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.
There are now 36 active cases in the country – a massive spike for the nation as it had just celebrated 102 days without a single case through community transmission on Sunday.
Three of the cases are employees at Americold, a cold storage facility believed to be at the heart of the outbreak. Another seven are family members of these employees.
Ms Ardern made the drastic move to force New Zealand back into lockdown on Wednesday after the first new COVID-19 cases emerged.
Health experts are still trying to figure out how the cluster began after the country had gone 102 days without a single case of community transmission and it seemed the country had eliminated the virus.
Queues stretch for kilometres in and out of Auckland as police stop vehicles at a checkpoint on SH1 north of Wellsford on August 12
A nurse prepares to test people at a Covid-19 testing facility in Eden Terrace, Auckland, on Thursday
Police question drivers as they head in and out of Auckland on SH1 north of Wellsford on Wednesday (pictured) amid new Stage Three lockdown
People wear masks as they enjoy the sun amid Auckland’s lockdown
They are using genome sequencing – looking at the genetic material, or DNA, of an organism – to track the source of the infection.
Americold is set to undergo testing for COVID-19 amid fears the virus survived on refrigerated freight sent from overseas and then spread to staff.
One of China’s top epidemiologists Wu Xunyou warned the virus could survive up to three months on frozen food packaging, adding credence to the theory about New Zealand’s new cases.
The lockdown has forced families to stay-at-home for 72 hours.
The rest of the country was placed under Stage Two restrictions – mandating social distancing and limits on the size of gatherings.
An emergency public safety alert text message was sent out informing New Zealanders of the latest restrictions during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the drastic move to force the country back into lockdown (pictured, a barista in Auckland wearing a face mask on Thursday)
All aged care facilities will close their doors to everyone but staff from Wednesday to keep those residents safe.
‘This is tough for people, but it’s necessary. We need to protect the most vulnerable,’ Ms Ardern said.
Ms Ardern also urged residents in Auckland to wear a mask or face covering when out in public.
‘If you are in Auckland, please cover your face if you leave home – masks or a bandanna is fine,’ she said.
The new outbreak has baffled authorities who were certain the country had eliminated the virus.
Nurses prepare to test people at a Covid-19 testing facility in Eden Terrace, Auckland on Thursday
Medical staff test residents of South Auckland at a pop up Covid-19 testing centre in the Otara Mall, in Auckland, as New Zealand prepares to move into Covid-19 Alert Level 3 on Wednesday
New Zealand records first cases of community transmission of COVID-19 for 102 days
* Four members of a south Auckland family have tested positive to COVID-19.
* The ‘index case’ is a person in their 50s who has been symptomatic for five days and has no overseas travel history.
* Six family members received a rapid test on Tuesday evening; three tests came back positive and three are negative.
* A student at Auckland’s Mount Albert Grammar School has tested positive for COVID-19.
* Health authorities are awaiting the test results for another four ‘probable’ cases of coronavirus – three adults and a teenager – linked to a family cluster.
* Health officials are moving to isolate and test contacts of the family, including two Auckland workplaces.
* Auckland returns to a ‘level three’ lockdown from noon on Wednesday until midnight on Friday. Aucklanders are being asked to stay home except for essential work or essential needs.
* The rest of New Zealand returns to ‘level two’ for the same timeframe, with caps on gatherings and the return of social distancing.
* These measures have been enacted to buy health officials time time to test and isolate contacts, and to locate the source of the outbreak.
* Every worker at NZ’s border regime and managed isolation facility will also be tested in the next few days.