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New Zealand mulls lockdown; visitor tests positive for COVID-19 after returning home

·1 min read

(Corrects headline to "visitor tests positive ... after returning home" instead of "case in capital city")

WELLINGTON (Reuters) -New Zealand is considering locking down its capital city Wellington on Wednesday after an Australian tourist tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting the city over the weekend.

The South Pacific nation of 5 million people is among a handful of countries that have contained the spread of COVID-19 and returned to normalcy, with the last positive case due to community transmission reported on Feb 28.

But fresh concerns of an outbreak emerged after an Australian traveller from Sydney who visited New Zealand at the weekend tested positive for COVID-19 on return to Australia.

"Everything is on the table," Dr. Ashley Bloomfield told Radio New Zealand when asked if a lockdown in Wellington was an option being considered to curb any potential outbreak.

Bloomfield said the person travelled as a tourist and there would be quite a number of exposure sites. The person most likely contracted the virus before flying across the Tasman Sea, he added.

New Zealand agreed to quarantine-free travel with neighbouring Australia this year, as both nations had controlled the community spread of the coronavirus.

But Australia's most populous state, Sydney, reported its biggest daily increase in COVID-19 cases this week, prompting New Zealand to pause quarantine-free travel with the state on Tuesday.

Genome sequencing was underway in Australia to see if the case was linked to the current outbreak in Sydney.

The health ministry has asked four close contacts of the infected person to isolate, and further contact tracing is underway.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by David Gregorio)

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