How one COVID case shows off New Zealand’s pinpoint tracking ability

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read

Watch: Snap national lockdown in New Zealand over single virus case

It took just one coronavirus case – New Zealand’s first in six months – to prompt prime minister Jacinda Ardern to impose a national lockdown.

But the government’s ultra-cautious approach does not stop there.

The extraordinary lengths it goes to in order to prevent outbreaks is demonstrated by the level of detail in its contract tracing response to the single case, which was identified in a 58-year-old man from Auckland on Tuesday.

The government has published a list of all the places he visited in Auckland and the town of Coromandel between Thursday and Monday.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 17: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern looks on during a press conference at Parliament on August 17, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. Auckland and Coromandel will go into level-4 lockdown for seven days - and the rest of the country for three days - after a positive COVID-19 case was confirmed in the community in Auckland. The lockdown restrictions will come into effect at 11:59 tonight. The person traveled to Coromandel over the weekend. New Zealand health officials are investigating the source of the new positive COVID-19 case and are yet to confirm whether it is the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. The last case of community transmission was reported in New Zealand on February 28 2021. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern: 'The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard.' (Getty)

Read more: Shoppers crowd New Zealand supermarkets after Jacinda Arden announces lockdown over single COVID case

From cafes and petrol stations to railway tour operators and estate agents, the government has informed the public of each of the 15 places the man said he visited over the four-day period.

Timings go right down to the minute. For example, his visit to the Star and Garter Hotel Coromandel is listed between 6.39pm and 7.40pm on Friday.

Anyone who was at those locations in those time frames has been asked to self-isolate.

Read more: Thousands isolated unnecessarily because of NHS Covid app error

Granted, contact tracing is much more straightforward when there is only one case to deal with.

But this precise approach is indicative of New Zealand’s "go hard, go early" strategy under Ardern, which has resulted in just 2,570 cases and 26 deaths during the pandemic so far.

Its citizens have mostly been living without restrictions – although international borders have largely remained closed.

The toughest possible level-four lockdown has been imposed, meaning schools, offices and most businesses will close for at least three days from Wednesday. 

Auckland and Coromandel will be in lockdown for seven days as these are the areas the man visited.

Ardern said on Tuesday: "The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard.

"We have made the decision on the basis that it is better to start high and go down levels rather than to go low, not contain the virus and see it move quickly."

Watch: UK reported 28,438 new COVID cases on Monday

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