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Huge queues at New Zealand supermarkets as people flock to buy supplies amid return of lockdown

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Huge queues have been forming at New Zealand supermarkets despite pleas to stay away as shoppers flock to buy supplies amid the return of lockdown.

Photos show late night shoppers in Auckland pushing trolleys laden with toilet paper after coronavirus broke out following 102 days with no cases in the community.

It comes despite the country’s prime minister Jacinda Arden pleading with people to stay calm.

She said earlier: “Please do not rush to the supermarket tonight… there is no reason to rush out and make any purchases this evening.

“Supermarkets will be open, there will be ample stock on the shelves.”

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Four coronavirus cases have been found in one Auckland household from an unknown source.

Ms Ardern said the nation’s largest city will be moved to Alert Level 3 from midday on Wednesday until midnight on Friday, meaning that people will be asked to stay at home, while bars and many other businesses will be closed.

First coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand after more than 100 days

“These three days will give us time to assess the situation, gather information, make sure we have widespread contact tracing so we can find out more about how this case arose and make decisions about how to respond to it once we have further information,” Ms Ardern said at a hastily called news conference late on Tuesday.

She continued: “I know that this information will be very difficult to receive. We had all hoped not to find ourselves in this position again. But we had also prepared for it. And as a team, we have also been here before.”

Jacinda Arden speaks on Tuesday (AP)

She said travelling into Auckland will be banned unless people live there and are travelling home.

The rest of the country will be raised to Level 2 until Friday, she added, meaning that mass gatherings will be limited to 100 attendees and people would need to socially distance themselves from each other.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the cases were confirmed after a person in their 50s went to their doctor with symptoms and was swabbed twice, testing positive both times. Six other people in the person’s household were then tested, with three more positive results.

New Zealand suffers new coronavirus outbreak after 102 days

“Importantly, the person has no history of overseas travel,” Mr Bloomfield said, adding that the source of the infections remains unknown.

Until Tuesday, the only known cases of the virus in New Zealand were 22 travellers who had recently returned from abroad and were being held in quarantine at the border.

The country has been praised globally for its virus response.

New Zealand initially got rid of the virus by imposing a strict lockdown in late March when only about 100 people had tested positive for the disease. That stopped its spread.

The outbreak comes less than six weeks before New Zealanders are due to go to the polls in a general election.

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