A brief history of New Zealand's COVID-19 community outbreaks

It's been almost a year since New Zealand's first community outbreak of COVID-19. Since then there have been six others - including the latest, which has plunged Auckland into its third lockdown.

The first outbreak of COVID-19 led to the March-April alert level 4 lockdown last year. When level 4 restrictions were implemented on March 25, the entire nation went into self-isolation, and a national state of emergency was declared. 

The first coronavirus-related death in New Zealand came days later on March 29. As the country grappled with as many as 89 new cases on some days, the state of emergency was extended five times, and the shift to level 3 didn't come until the end of April. 

Things slowly started to look more positive. The Ministry of Health announced on May 4 that for the first time, there were no new cases of COVID-19 to report. By June 8, there were no more active cases, and New Zealand finally shifted to alert level 1. 

The second outbreak

New Zealanders were blessed with more than 100 days free of COVID-19.

But a re-emergence of the virus in Auckland - four cases announced in the community on August 11 - plunged the city into its first regional lockdown, as the rest of the country shifted to alert level 2.

It wasn't until October 7 - more than a month later - that Auckland finally shifted back to alert level 1, restoring some normality to the country. 

The source of the August Auckland cluster remains a mystery. The Government faced serious pressure through that month when it was revealed by Newshub that many border workers had not been tested despite repeated assurances they were. It led to strict new testing measures for border workers

The third 'mystery' outbreak

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield announced a "mystery" community case of COVID-19 in Auckland on August 18, but it didn't lead to a shift in alert levels. 

The positive case was a maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel in Auckland, one of the Government's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities. 

The worker's virus was genome-sequenced to find a link.

Officials found that it was not linked to the Auckland August cluster, but someone staying in MIQ from the United States, possibly through surface contact from an elevator they both used.

The fourth 'border incursion' outbreak 

A marine engineer came down with COVID-19 symptoms and tested positive on October 16, sparking another community outbreak in New Zealand. But Dr Bloomfield described it as a "border incursion" rather than a community outbreak. 

The Ministry of Health's genome sequencing confirmed that the port worker was infected while working on the Sofrana Surville ship, which stopped off in Auckland and later travelled back to Australia.

The alert levels did not change despite a small number of cases connected to the port worker. 

The fifth outbreak

Another community case was announced in November - a retail worker in Auckland whose infection was traced to a Defence Force worker who became infected at the Jet Park quarantine facility.

It's still unknown exactly how the virus was passed on. 

The sixth outbreak

The first outbreak of 2021 was in January, a Northland woman who had completed her two-week stay in MIQ at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. Genome sequencing linked it to the highly transmissible variant from South Africa. 

The Ministry of Health was able to confidently say the woman caught it within the facility - after her day 12 test, which was negative, and before she was released. It led the Government to not let people leave their rooms after their day 12 test. 

The woman was praised for effectively utilising the NZ COVID Tracer app, which enabled health officials to trace where she had been, meaning it wasn't necessary for the Government to change the alert level settings. 

The seventh outbreak

That brings us to the latest outbreak, announced on Sunday.

A Papatoetoe High School student and her parents tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. 

The mother works at LSG Sky Chefs, which provides catering and hospitality services for airlines. The Ministry of Health has flagged the workplace as a possible transmission link. 

The Government confirmed early on Monday that the daughter and her parents have contracted the more transmissible UK variant of COVID-19, or B.1.1.7, and there is no link to MIQ.