Panic-buyers have started swarming supermarkets in New Zealand and traffic jams have hit after lockdown measures have been brought back.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that new restrictions are being temporarily imposed after four members of the same household in Auckland tested positive for coronavirus.
The country had gone 102 days without any cases so the new lockdown measures came as a surprise.
Stage 3 orders – strict stay-at-home measures – have been imposed in the immediate area of the outbreak, and stage 2 restrictions limiting gathering numbers and mandating social distancing have been placed on the rest of New Zealand.
Despite Ms Ardern begging Kiwis not to congregate at shopping centres and supermarkets, people were seen queuing down streets and car parks were overflowing throughout Auckland, MailOnline reports.
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She promised travellers in the city would be allowed to return home during lockdown, but motorways were still congested as people attempted to make an early exit.
Countdown Supermarket chain countdown issued a public plea for consumers to stick to their regular shopping behaviour while also confirming it had to close stores early in response to the mad rush.
Ms Ardern assured the community food stores would remain fully stocked – but there was pandemonium as shoppers headed straight out before the Prime Minister had even finished her press conference.
Footage taken at Countdown in New Lynn around 10pm showed panicked residents had ripped the doors open and flooded inside, scrambling over the top of one another and ignoring social distancing protocols.
Police were called as security tried to control the crowds, which included a woman with her baby who insisted she needed food for the child.
‘I counted over 200 people in the line, there are cars literally queuing up outside because there aren’t enough car parks,’ one of the shoppers in the queue told NZHerald on Tuesday night.
‘It was chaos,’ another said. ‘There was traffic blocking all of the roads leading to the supermarket, the parking lot was completely full and there were cars queued to get into the parking lot.
‘There was already a queue snaking outside. I didn’t think I’d even be able to get a park, let alone get the shopping done before the store closed.’
Countdown at Manukau and Johnsonville in Wellington experienced similar crowds of shoppers.
Following the announcement, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called for calm.
‘I understand that people are probably feeling a little bit scared, a little angry and a little confused right now. None of us wanted to go back into a lockdown, but we always knew this was a very real possibility,’ he said.
‘I am urging Aucklanders to come together like we did last time to stamp out community transmission. Please remain calm, please do not panic buy and please follow the lockdown rules.’
He reminded the community that they had beaten the virus once before, and said he had no doubt they would do it again.
Tuesday’s new cases are all linked to one family and include a 50-year-old man and a young child.
Ms Ardern said she was concerned about the origin of the new infections as the family have no links to overseas travel and contact tracers are ‘expecting to see more cases’ linked to the cluster.
‘We are asking people in Auckland to stay home to stop the spread. Act as if you have Covid, and as if the people around you have Covid,’ she added.
The nation had been the envy of the world for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, with Monday marking 101 days without a single case of community transmission.
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