New Zealand to announce decision on coronavirus lockdown extension
By Praveen Menon WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to announce on Friday whether a lockdown in its biggest city will be eased or extended, as officials said it appeared the country's first outbreak in more than three months was an imported strain. Ardern put Auckland, home to about 1.7 million people, into lockdown on Wednesday, just hours after a four new COVID-19 cases were discovered in a family living in the city. She also reinstated social distancing measures across the country
coronavirus lockdown extension" src="https://images.firstpost.com/wp-content/uploads/reuters/08-2020/14/2020-08-14T004604Z_2_LYNXNPEG7C1YP_RTROPTP_2_NEWZEALAND-SHOOTING-PRAYER.jpg" alt="New Zealand to announce decision on coronavirus lockdown extension" width="300" height="225" />
By Praveen Menon
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to announce on Friday whether a lockdown in its biggest city will be eased or extended, as officials said it appeared the country's first outbreak in more than three months was an imported strain.
Ardern put Auckland, home to about 1.7 million people, into lockdown on Wednesday, just hours after a four new COVID-19 cases were discovered in a family living in the city. She also reinstated social distancing measures across the country.
A further 13 infections have since been confirmed and linked to the Auckland family, raising some doubts over Ardern's eradication strategy for the pandemic as she heads into a general election next month.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said on Friday that genome testing of the strain of COVID-19 contracted by the Auckland family suggested it had originated in Britain or Australia.
However, he said how the Auckland family had acquired it was still under investigation, countering comments from Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters late on Thursday that a quarantine facility breach had been identified as the source.
"People talking about the border, even that's premature at this point, we simply do not have enough information to make even an educated guess about where this may have come from," Hipkins told broadcaster 1NEWS.
Health officials said earlier in the week they were looking into the "low possibility" the virus was imported on frozen food packages. Ten of the new casess have been linked to a cool store that takes imported frozen goods from overseas.
Some prominent local health experts suggested it was more likely the virus had been quietly spreading in Auckland for weeks, despite Ardern's efforts to eradicate it with an initial five-week hard lockdown.
The main opposition National Party has blasted the government, saying it failed to secure quarantine facilities and accusing it of withholding information about the latest outbreak.
New Zealanders celebrated when Ardern appeared to eliminate community transmission of the coronavirus with the earlier hard lockdown that forced almost everyone to stay at home.
But opinion is divided on whether the 40-year-old leader should repeat that strategy, given its huge economic cost and mounting global evidence that the virus cannot be permanently suppressed.
Westpac Banking Corp
Reserve Bank of New Zealand Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand told Reuters a sustained resurgence of the virus posed "a major risk" to the bank's outlook, given its baseline scenario has an assumption that the virus is contained in the country.
Ardern is expected to announce her decision on lockdown measures at 1730 local time (0530 GMT) after meeting with her cabinet and the release of the daily infection numbers. She has said she will make a decision by Sunday on whether to postpone the Sept. 19 election.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Jane Wardell)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.