New Zealand is to return to a full, nationwide lockdown from midnight local time following the discovery of a case of COVID-19 that was locally transmitted. Film and TV productions will have to halt, but the pain may be brief.
The move to a “Level 4” lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday afternoon at a televised press conference. Auckland and the nearby Coromandel area will close to all but essential services for seven days, the rest of the country for just three.
The country has already been largely self-isolating and had not incurred a locally transmitted case since February. Behind largely closed borders, the Level 4 restrictions have not been applied for nearly a year.
Ardern argued that it is easier and safer to return straight to the maximum level of response and then ease restrictions as appropriate, rather that start too low and allow the disease to spread.
“Delta is serious and we have every reason to believe this is likely to be the Delta variant,” Ardern said. “We need to respond to that, that is why we are going hard and early, but all the things we have done before have worked, and they will work again if people please follow the rules.”
Among the few activities exempted from the stay-at-home restrictions are taking exercise locally, food shopping and going for coronavirus testing and vaccination. News media are also exempt, but film and TV productions are not.
The timing, however, means that few international movies or TV shows are likely to be affected. Amazon Prime Studios’ massive “Lord of the Rings TV” series wrapped its first season earlier this month. It was recently announced that the second season will relocate to the U.K. Blumhouse Pictures’ horror-thriller “M3GAN” has also wrapped.
James Cameron’s “Avatar” movies, which have used facilities in Auckland and Wellington, were already on hiatus. They were not set to resume until September or November.
Unconfirmed, local sources report that one NBCUniversal TV series was in production near Auckland at the time of Tuesday’s lockdown announcement.
The local case involved a 58-year-old Auckland man who traveled to Coromandel over the weekend. Coromandel is a scenic peninsula that can be reached by ferry from Auckland or by car within a couple of hours. He is understood to have been infectious since Thursday. Health officials involved in contact tracing have identified 23 places of interest where the man may have visited while infectious.
Auckland-based doctor Jin Russell tweeted her approval of the swift and hard government approach. “Go hard, go early. Crush it.”
We’ve had 169 days without any virus in the community. The speed of the gov response is terrific. Director General of Health notified this arvo, into lockdown at 11.59 tonight.
I’m fully vaxxed, but I’ll be scanning, masking & working from home. Kia kaha everyone, let’s go
— Jin Russell (@DrJinRussell) August 17, 2021