WELLINGTON — New Zealand recorded its first coronavirus death in more than 3 months on Friday when a man in his 50s succumbed to the virus.
Health officials said the man was part of a second-wave cluster of infections that emerged in Auckland last month, ending a spell of 102 days free of community transmission in the South Pacific nation.
The death at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital on Friday afternoon takes New Zealand's death toll from the virus to 23, with the most recent previous fatality on May 24.
"I acknowledge the anxiety New Zealanders may be feeling about today’s news, both in the wider community and also for the family and whanau (relatives) grieving over this death," health chief Ashley Bloomfield said in a statement.
"Our thoughts are with his family and community at this time of loss and grief."
The Auckland cluster emerged in a family of four and has since grown to 152, including 3 recorded on Friday.
It has proved difficult to eliminate despite a two-and-a-half week lockdown in Auckland that ended on Sunday night.
"We have always recognized that further deaths linked to COVID-19 were possible," Bloomfield said.
"Today's news reinforces the importance of our shared vigilance against COVID-19, the very serious consequences the virus can carry with it."
While Aucklanders were allowed out of their homes this week, the government limited non-school social gatherings in the city of 1.5 million to 10 people and made masks compulsory on public transport nationwide.
Health authorities said earlier on Friday, before the latest death was announced, that the restriction would remain in place until at least September 16.