New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Tuesday that she was imposing a lockdown order on the entire country following the discovery of a single COVID-19 case.
"The best thing we can do to get out of this as quickly as we can is to go hard," said Arden at a news conference, reports Reuters. "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."
A 58-year-old man from Auckland reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. That city, plus the town of Coromandel that he also visited, must now lockdown for seven days. The rest of the country must lockdown for a minimum of three days.
The new restrictions snapping into place constitute a proper lockdown. They require people to stay in their homes unless they're out to collect food, medicine, get a COVID-19 test, or exercise outside. Bars, restaurants, gyms, and playgrounds are all closed. Schools are required to shutter as well.
The New Zealand government is also asking residents to only make physical contact with the people they live with.
"If you want to talk to a friend, call or video chat with them. If you want to talk to a [neighbor], do it over the fence," reads the government's guidance on social interactions. Separated parents can still shuttle their children back and forth, provided the parents both live in the same city.
"Do not congregate. Don't talk to your neighbors. Please keep to your bubbles. We know from overseas cases of the Delta variant that it can be spread by people simply walking past one another," said Adren at a press conference. "So, keep those movements outside to a bare minimum, wear a mask, and make sure you keep up that physical distance."
New Zealand has pursued a policy of generally closed borders and snap lockdowns as a means of fighting COVID-19. That approach is credited with keeping the island nation's number of cases and deaths exceptionally low. In a population of 5 million, there have been 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and only 26 confirmed deaths.
The consequence of this strategy is that New Zealand is periodically thrown into a sudden shutdown of all social life over a single case popping up. Auckland had to endure multiple lockdown episodes of this sort in February of this year, for instance.
Only about 20 percent of New Zealand's population has been fully vaccinated, which is less than any U.S. state. The latest lockdown won't help boost those numbers since all vaccination sites must also close.