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New Zealand probes likely local COVID-19 case

New Zealand health officials launched an investigation on Sunday (January 24) into what they said was likely the country’s first local COVID-19 case in months. A 56-year-old woman returned from an overseas trip late last month, and tested positive for the coronavirus days after a two-week mandatory quarantine at the border. Under quarantine, she had tested negative twice. A top New Zealand health official said it’s possible her case is a variant found in the UK or elsewhere. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield: “We are working under the assumptions that this is a positive case and that it is a more transmissible variant, either the one identified first in South Africa or the UK, or potentially Brazil – or another transmissible variant.” Health officials added it’s unknown if the woman caught the disease abroad or locally. New Zealand last recorded a community case in mid-November, according to the Health Ministry online. The island nation of 5 million people has virtually eliminated COVID-19 within its borders, with less than 2,000 cases since the global crisis began helped by a strict lockdown and its geographical isolation. But with COVID-19 raging globally, more positive cases are returning to New Zealand, raising concern of a possible community outbreak of a more transmissible variant. Pressure has been mounting on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government to vaccinate the population, but she has said a mass rollout won’t begin until the second half of this year.

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