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New Zealand scrambles to trace cluster, reporting 14 new virus cases

Auckland: New Zealand officials were scrambling to trace the source of an outbreak of the coronavirus, reporting 14 new cases on Thursday, as long queues of people formed to escape a renewed lockdown in the country's biggest city or be tested for the virus.

The discovery of four infected family members in Auckland two days ago shocked a country that had not recorded a case of COVID-19 for more than three months, raising some criticism of the government's handling of the crisis. New Zealand announced on Thursday that there were 13 new cases in the community, and one overseas arrival who was in quarantine, bringing the total number of active cases to 36.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reimposed tight movement restrictions in Auckland and social distancing measures across the rest of the country on Wednesday, echoing her early response to the pandemic, which was praised for its apparent effectiveness. Officials reported on Thursday that three more people at a refrigerator storage facility - Americold -where one of the family members worked, had tested positive.

Ardern said it was a positive sign that all the new 13 cases were linked back to the infected family, either via work or broader family connections. All were being transferred into quarantine facilities. The rest of the country was placed back into slightly looser level 2 restrictions. The restrictions will initially remain in place until Friday, when Ardern will announce the next steps.

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