New Zealand in lockdown as U.K. variant reported

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Monday that the more transmissible U.K. COVID-19 variant was found among the latest outbreak of cases, which caused a city-wide lockdown over the weekend.

It’s the first time the strain has been detected locally.

“I can share that with you now. Late last night we received from ESR, our testing lab, the results of the genome sequencing. Now that's telling us we were right to take the decision we did, it is the UK variant, for those who follow these things closely, B1.1.7. That is the one that's been reported as being more transmissible."

On Sunday, Auckland's nearly 2 million residents were plunged into a three-day lockdown when three new COVID-19 cases were detected in the city.

Two of those cases were the U.K. variant.

Authorities said the source of the cases remains unknown.

Auckland’s lockdown is New Zealand’s first in six months.

The last lockdown appeared to have largely eliminated local transmission, ranking the country as the best in the world at containing the virus in an Australian data index of almost 100 countries.

The weekend’s outbreak burst a travel bubble with Australia, which would have suspended the mandated 14-day quarantine for New Zealand travellers.

New Zealand's health department said on Monday there were no new community cases, but five in managed isolation facilities.