New Zealand on Thursday scrambled to trace the source of its first coronavirus outbreak in over three months, reporting 13 new community infections.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had sought to eradicate the virus with a hard lockdown.
The resurgence of COVID-19 came just weeks before a scheduled general election, increasing pressure on Ms Ardern to get the outbreak under control amid growing criticism.
Ms Ardern swiftly re-imposed tight movement restrictions in Auckland and social distancing measures across the rest of the country after the discovery this week of four infected family members in the city.
“Once again we are reminded of how tricky this virus is and how easily it can spread, going hard and early is still the best course of action,” she said during a televised news conference.
Ms Ardern said it was a positive sign that all 13 new community cases were linked back to one infected family, either via work or broader family connections, and that all were being transferred into quarantine facilities.
She said that experience showed “things will get worse before they get better,” and more cases were likely to be reported in coming days.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said that he suspected the cause of the outbreak came from quarantine, and that confirmation should come soon.
“I think there’s been a breach inside our quarantine system, and I think, when that comes out very shortly, in a matter of maybe less than a day, we’ll find out that was the case,” Mr Peters told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Mr Peters said he had been informed of the details by a New Zealand journalist.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said health officials were getting “closer every hour” to finding the patient zero of the outbreak.
On Wednesday, Bloomfield had raised the possibility that the virus had arrived in New Zealand via freight, given one of the initially infected family members’ works in a cool store that takes imported frozen goods from overseas.