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New Zealand announces new coronavirus restrictions after Australian travels while likely infectious

An Australian traveller with COVID-19 has prompted the return of level two restrictions to New Zealand’s capital.

On Wednesday morning, health authorities revealed a Sydney-based person who spent a weekend in Wellington tested positive for the virus on their return to NSW.

In response, the NZ Cabinet held an emergency meeting on Wednesday – deciding against a lockdown, but to increase safety measures.

“At the moment we do know that we’ve had a positive case and that person had some extensive potential exposure in the Wellington region,” COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said. 

The level two restrictions involve mask-wearing in public settings, gathering caps and the encouragement of working from home.

Local transmission is yet to be identified: any new cases would snap New Zealand’s streak of more than 100 days without community transmission.

The Sydney traveller arrived in Wellington on Friday night before heading back on Monday.

The most likely scenario – based on testing and the person’s symptoms – is he caught the virus in Australia and travelled to NZ while contagious.

Four close contacts in NZ have already been identified: two people from Palmerston North and Tauranga each, all of whom are isolating.

“I expect they were friends that the people were visiting or they spent time with here,” Dr Bloomfield said.

Genomic testing will show whether the case is linked to the current Bondi outbreak.

“We don’t know which variant it is. We’ll get information as quickly as possible from our Australian colleagues what the genomic sequencing is,” he said.

“The key thing here is, whatever the variant, the response is the same.”

As of 11am AEST on Wednesday, 15 locations of interest in Wellington have been identified, including national museum Te Papa, Jack Hackett’s Irish Pub, and several cafes or restaurants.

Te Papa closed on Wednesday in response.

A full list is on NZ’s Ministry of Health website, with anyone who visited those places at the same time being asked to isolate and get tested.

The imported case is likely to heap pressure on the government’s response to the NSW cluster, which has now grown to 31 cases

New Zealand officials only made the decision to close the trans-Tasman bubble on Tuesday night, in response to a new batch of 10 cases.

Two flights have been identified as potential transmission sites: Qantas QF163, departing Sydney at 7.05pm on Friday June 18 for Wellington, and Air New Zealand NZ247, departing Wellington at 10.13am on Monday June 21 for Sydney.

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