BREAKING! COVID-19 Latest: Could Imported Chilled Food Be Source Of The New SAR-CoV-2 Outbreak In New Zealand?
It was announced today that the New Zealand's government will extend the lockdown of Auckland, its largest city for another 12 days as it tries to stamp out its first domestic coronavirus outbreak in more than three months.
Health authorities said that the outbreak has grown to 30 people and extended beyond Auckland for the first time and they suspect that many more individuals could be infected and not even aware while spreading the virus around.
New Zealand had gone 102 days without infections spreading in the community till the cluster was discovered on Tuesday. The only known cases were travelers quarantined after arriving from abroad.
Although local authorities believe the virus must have been reintroduced from overseas, but genome testing hasn't found a link with any of the quarantined travelers. That has prompted authorities to investigate whether shipping workers were a source, after several employees at a food storage facility were infected.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said extending the Auckland lockdown, which began Wednesday, would give authorities time to get a handle on the virus cluster and isolate those infected.
She told media "Together, we have got rid of COVID before. We have kept it out for 102 days, longer than any other country. We have been world-leading in our COVID response, with the result that many lives were saved and our economy was getting going faster than almost anywhere else. We can do all of that again."
However many are skeptical that New Zealand will be able to contain the spread this time round.
It was also reported that all of the new cases in the outbreak appear to be linked through family or work connections. The only known infections outside Auckland are two people in the central North Island town of Tokoroa who were visited by infected family members from Auckland. Officials said they thought the chances were low the virus would spread further in Tokoroa.
Imported Foods, the Source of The Spread?
Interestingly, several of those infected work at an Americold food storage facility in the Auckland suburb of Mt. Wellington.
Health Officials are looking at the possibility that workers on a freight ship or at the port may have spread the infections, despite physical distancing requirements at those sites and orders preventing ship workers coming ashore.
Americold is an American logistics and warehousing company that is based in Georgia, one of the COVID-19 hard hit states in the US and it ships American food products around the world.
Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health said they were doing rigorous testing at Auckland's port "as part of our investigation just to follow that chain of the Americold goods that might have come in through the port and that had been transported to that Mt. Wellington depot."
Health officials are also investigating the possibility the virus could have survived from abroad on chilled or frozen food boxes and then infected workers in New Zealand, a scenario they consider unlikely.
China has reported numerous cases of chilled salmon and most recently food supplies coming in from Brazil and Ecuador being contaminated with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavi
The WHO (the incompetent World Health Organization) has however publicly announced that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus cannot be transmitted via food sources despite not having any studies to back themselves up with their statements. It must be noted that since the start of the epidemic, the WHO has been a major source of misinformation and fake news. https://www.thailandmedical.news/news/covid-19-news-who-says-food-safe-fom-sars-cov-2-coronavirus--fake-news-and-misinformation-or-fact
Meanwhile, Bloomfield said that local health authorities have completed a record of more than 15,000 COVID-19 tests Thursday and they were getting a clearer picture of the outbreak's contours.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said, "All of the cases so far, at this point, are connected. They are all part of one Auckland-based cluster and that is good news."
Importantly, the new outbreak has cast doubt on whether New Zealand's general election will go ahead as planned next month and has halted political campaigning.
Prime Minister Ardern said she would decide by Sunday on whether to delay the election, which she can by up to about two months under New Zealand law.
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