New Zealand baffled by new COVID-19 cases, eyes frozen-food packaging

Enlarge / WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – AUGUST 13: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks with media at a COVID-19 briefing on August 13, 2020. COVID-19 restrictions have been reintroduced across New Zealand after four new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Auckland. Auckland has been placed in Level 3 lockdown for three days from Wednesday, August 12, with all residents to work from home unless they are essential workers and all schools and childcare centers are closed. The rest of New Zealand has returned to Level 2 restrictions. The new cases are all in the same family, with health authorities working to trace the source of the infection. (credit: Getty | Mark Tantrum)

New Zealand officials are scrambling to halt a growing cluster of COVID-19 cases that has baffled health investigators trying to understand how the pandemic coronavirus regained a foothold on the island nation.

Officials on Tuesday announced four cases in one family in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Before that, the country had gone 102 days without any local transmission. Throughout the pandemic, New Zealand has been among the most successful countries in the world at responding to and holding back the pandemic coronavirus, relying on swift and thorough testing and tracing as well as rigorous social distancing and lockdown orders.

But the new cluster has stumped investigators, who are now exploring all the possible ways the coronavirus may have slipped back in—including that it arrived on the packaging of frozen-food shipments and infected a worker unpacking them.

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