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New Zealand scientists linked the country's growing COVID-19 cluster to the Delta outbreak that began in Sydney, Australia — and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday they're "fairly certain" they've found the source.
Why it matters: Since the country entered its highest pandemic restrictions just before midnight Tuesday over one positive local test result, scientists have uncovered links to a traveler who arrived in NZ from Sydney on Aug. 7.
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The World Health Organization has praised New Zealand for its rapid COVID-19 genome sequencing and "unique" targeted modeling technology that can predict down to the suburb where the coronavirus might spread.
What they're saying: "Today we believe we have uncovered the piece of the puzzle we were looking for," Ardern said at a news conference Thursday.
"And that means our ability to circle the virus, lock it down and stamp it out generally has greatly improved."
The big picture: Ardern imposed alert level 4 restrictions nationwide following the first positive test result in the community for nearly six months.
As the number of coronavirus cases in the Auckland community rose to 21 on Thursday, Ardern announced that 12- to 15-year-old children would be eligible for the vaccine from Sept. 1.
Of note: Officials see lockdown enforcement as another key tool in once again banishing the virus from the community. There's a visible police presence across the country and police have made several arrests for health order breaches.
Police prosecuted dozens of people for breaching pandemic rules during NZ's only other nationwide lockdown, early in the pandemic.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.
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