3rd LD Writethru: New Zealand confirms 3 more COVID-19 cases, total community infections rise to 10

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WELLINGTON, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand confirmed three more Delta cases of COVID-19 in the community, bringing the total number of community cases to 10 on Wednesday, including one fully-vaccinated nurse from an Auckland hospital.

Nine of these cases have been linked to other community cases that resulted in the country's second national top level lockdown starting Tuesday midnight. The remaining case has been linked to the border, according to the Ministry of Health.

The three new cases, who are all in Auckland, are a man in his 20s who is the partner of a known case, a woman in her 60s who has a connection to the border, and a woman in her 20s who has a connection with another case reported earlier on Wednesday.

Additional locations of interest identified have been added to the health ministry's website, including casino, Avondale College, several Auckland supermarkets, bars and cafes, which will be updated progressively as further locations of interest are identified.

Under the Alert Level 4 lockdown, businesses and schools are closed except for essential ones such as supermarkets and service stations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said genome sequencing results confirmed that it is the Delta variant that is linked to genome sequencing of cases in Australia's New South Wales outbreak.

"Our case has originated in Australia," Ardern told a press conference. The trans-Tasman free quarantine travel started in April and was suspended last month due to the outbreak in Australia's several states.

One of the new cases announced earlier on Wednesday is a 20-year-old workmate of the first case announced on Tuesday who was a 58-year-old man in Auckland's North Shore. Another three are flatmates of this workmate, with two others being friends with the four cases, said Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

One of the three flatmates is the fully vaccinated 21-year-old nurse who works at the Auckland City Hospital and had been working in recent days, Bloomfield said, adding that the hospital has taken immediate actions to shut down any potential spread, including stopping unnecessary movements between wards and testing all staff and patients on the ward.

Ardern said the nationwide lockdown was appropriate.

"Our whole ambition here is: do it once, do it right. Short and sharp is better than light and long and I think we all agree," she told New Zealand local media during a morning interview.

On mask use, Ardern said from 11:59 p.m. Wednesday it will be mandatory for people aged 12-plus to wear a mask when visiting essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and service stations, and staff must also wear masks.

Masks must also now be worn at bus terminals and in taxis, she said.

"We know of instances where people have picked up Delta simply by walking past someone with it," said a Ministry of Health statement.

New Zealand has moved to the top level 4 national lockdown from midnight Tuesday following the first identified Delta COVID-19 case in the Auckland community. The Alert level will be reviewed after three days for all areas except Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula which is likely to remain at Level 4 for an initial period of seven days.

Fearing of a prolonged lockdown in the epicenter of the Delta community transmission, fleeing Aucklanders brought their boats and caravans, and with their bikes on top of their racks, trying to get out of the city before the lockdown took effect.

As a result, residents at Coromandel Peninsula set up their own road blocks to curb the fleeing Aucklanders under the help of police. Enditem

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