New Zealand has reported 13 fresh novel coronavirus cases in the community on Thursday from the previous day as the nation reels from a new outbreak.
Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield told reporters in Wellington that he expects the COVID cluster to increase.
The nation also reported a case from an overseas arrival on Thursday, and now has 36 active cases. All confirmed cases will be quarantined.
New Zealand latest outbreak has thrown the largest city Auckland back into lockdown and threatens to dent the economic recovery.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put Auckland into lockdown for an initial period of three days as health officials try to trace the origin of the infections.
Social distancing rules and limits on gatherings have also been reimposed on the rest of the country.
Ardern said, “I know this disruption to businesses is putting extraordinary pressure on you, but the best long-term economic response is for us to get this immediate response right”.
The health ministry was earlier planning for a COVID-19 immunization program, and while there is still significant uncertainty on what a potential COVID-19 vaccine might be and how it will be delivered.
All the confirmed cases will now go into quarantine, said officials. Some of their contacts may also be quarantined.
Before Tuesday, New Zealand went 102 days without recording a locally transmitted case of coronavirus, one of the few countries to reach such a milestone.
Ardern is due to announce next steps on the lockdown on Friday and a decision on the poll before Monday.
Earlier, PM Ardern had warned that new cases may come up in the future as New Zealanders returned home, and some others were allowed in under special conditions.
New Zealand has registered 1,589 COVID-19 cases so far with 22 deaths.