COVID-19: How the world's media is reacting to New Zealand's new community cases

New Zealand has detected two new cases of COVID-19 in the community - recent returnees who, as indicated by preliminary genomic sequencing, appear to have contracted the virus from a managed isolation facility. 

The two new cases, an adult and a child from the same family, were released from Auckland's Pullman Hotel on January 15 - the same day a Northland woman, who tested positive for the virus over the weekend, was also permitted to leave the facility.

The preliminary genomic sequencing suggests that the adult and child, who both tested negative twice while at the Pullman Hotel, are linked to the Northland woman. The sequencing also found that all three cases have been infected with the highly contagious South African variant, a mutated strain that has been wreaking havoc overseas.

With swathes of the world still trapped in the claws of COVID-19, New Zealand has been at the centre of global envy. The country's success at tackling the virus has drawn widespread praise, with an international policy think-tank ranking New Zealand's response to the pandemic as the best in the world on Thursday.

And while it appears the three individuals contracted the virus at the facility, the cases have put an abrupt end to New Zealand's run without COVID-19 in the community. 

International media have been quick to report on the latest cases, speculating on what the infections could mean for New Zealand and its status as a COVID-free community.

Here's what the headlines are saying.

NZ remains 'poster child' of COVID-19 response - CNN

In a piece for CNN Travel, reporters acknowledged that New Zealand had recorded new cases in the community, but maintained that the country is still "the "poster child" of a successful COVID-19 response. 

"New Zealand has become the poster child for how to deal with COVID-19. Its early lockdown and strict border measures mean it has suppressed the virus to an astonishing degree," the outlet reported.

Although only residents and citizens are permitted to enter the country - aside from a few rare exceptions for partners, dependents and critical workers - CNN noted that others may be given an exemption to cross the border if the travel is for a critical purpose.

For those who are granted permission to enter New Zealand and complete the mandatory managed isolation period on arrival, they can expect to find "life lived much as it was pre-pandemic", says CNN.

NZ tourism industry 'despairing at fresh setbacks' - AAP

The Australian Associated Press (AAP) has focused on how the new cases may disrupt plans to introduce two-way, quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia, reporting that Aotearoa's devastated tourism sector is "despairing at the fresh setbacks".

The countries have been in talks regarding the possibility of New Zealand opening its borders to trans-Tasman travel - however, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that Australia's temporary border closure had made the prospect "increasingly difficult".

"Hopes for quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand took a hit this week as NZ's first community COVID-19 case in weeks prompted Australia to suspend its one-way arrangement," the AAP said in its report, which has been used by a number of media outlets.

Australian visitors would provide a crucial lifeline to New Zealand's decimated tourism industry, with Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) estimating the sector will miss out on $NZ6 billion this summer - at least a third of which would have come from Australians.

However, Australia's borders have yet to be reopened as of Thursday afternoon.

Despite new cases, NZ has 'largely avoided' infections, deaths seen in other nations - Reuters

Reuters has noted that although the two new infections are being treated as confirmed cases out of caution, the two people remain under investigation. The report also noted that New Zealand has "largely avoided the high numbers of infections and deaths from the virus as seen in many other nations".

"New Zealand's health authorities on Thursday conducted further tests and began contact tracing efforts after two more cases of the South African variant of COVID-19 were confirmed in the country's largest city Auckland," it said.

"The new cases could further delay neighbouring Australia reopening the quarantine-free travel arrangement with New Zealand.

"The likelihood of another lockdown was low at this point but things could change, the COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins told The AM Show on Thursday."

'The case has caused ripples of unease around the country' - The Guardian

The Guardian's New Zealand-based journalist has reported that the detection of the two new cases sent "ripples of unease" around the country. 

The report, which was published to the London-based news outlet on Wednesday (local time), speculated that the infections could further delay the reopening of Australia's one-way travel bubble with New Zealand. 

After the emergence of the Northland case on Sunday, Australia's health minister declared that the one-way air bridge would be suspended for 72 hours, temporarily closing the borders to New Zealand travellers. 

"The fresh cases could see a further delay to Australia reopening its travel bubble with New Zealand," The Guardian reported.

"Australia's acting chief medical officer, Prof Michael Kidd, said the two cases had the South African variant of COVID and the situation was 'evolving rapidly'.

"Kidd said Australia was expecting further advice overnight from New Zealand and a decision would be made on Thursday. The travel suspension had been due to end at 2pm on Thursday."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (L) and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (L) and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there is currently "no evidence" of community transmission, but is calling on people to get tested if they are symptomatic or visited locations of interest in North Auckland, which were identified and publicly released on Wednesday. People who visited the locations within a specific period, either overlapping with or around the same time as the infected individuals, are being asked to isolate and get a test.