New Zealand recorded its first COVID-19 death in three months on Friday, taking the country’s total fatalities to 23.
The country’s health ministry said a man in his 50s, linked to a cluster of coronavirus cases in Auckland, died at a hospital in New Zealand’s largest city.
New Zealand and its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have been widely praised for curbing the virus, which has killed more than 800,000 people around the world. However, after 102 days COVID-free, the virus returned last month with four locally transmitted cases in Auckland. With the country’s international borders closed to foreigners since March and New Zealanders needing to quarantine for 14 day on their return, it is unclear how the virus came back.
Health officials also reported five new cases of the virus on Friday, taking the number of active cases in the country to 112, with six people currently in hospital.
Three of those five new cases are also linked to the wider ‘August Auckland cluster.’ The other two were imported cases — children of family members previously diagnosed with the virus having arrived in the country from India last month, the ministry said.
In a bid to control the Auckland cluster, 82 people are being kept at a quarantine facility in the country, including 59 people who have tested positive and their household contacts. The ministry said that number continues to decline as people reach the end of their isolation period at the facility.
A two-and-a-half week lockdown as a result of last month’s new cases came to an end on Sunday.
Ardern said on Friday that the Auckland cluster “remains contained” and there was no indication at this stage that the city needed to return to stricter lockdown measures but that current restrictions will now remain in place until at least mid-September.