NEW Zealand has been plunged into panic-buying mayhem after the country's largest city went back into lockdown because of just five new coronavirus cases.
Chaotic scenes of people clashing in supermarkets and gridlocked roads could be seen as the government implemented new, wide-ranging restrictions to prevent a further outbreak in Auckland, home to 1.6million people.
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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern implemented Stage 3 stay-at-home orders for Auckland for 72 hours from midday on Wednesday after the city reported four new cases of COVID-19 from the same family.
A fifth case was later identified, with four "probable" cases also being probed.
The rest of the country was placed under Stage 2 restrictions – mandating social distancing and limits on the size of gatherings.
The resulting lockdown has seen disorderly scenes as a quarter of New Zealand's 4.9m population is forced to re-adapt to coronavirus restrictions – following a 102 day streak without a locally transmitted infection.
Before yesterday's announcement all 22 active cases of the virus were among travellers returning to the country and being quarantined at the border.
Videos and pictures show shoppers clashing and panic-buying as people prepare to stay home for three days.
Footage shows irate shoppers protesting as they are told by apologetic staff that they can't come in.
Another video sees dozens of people squeeze into a shop while a security guard desperately attempts to block off a part of the entrance.
Long queues appeared outside shops with locals fearing a potentially larger outbreak that could see the stay at home order extended.
Roads were also rammed with cars stuck in traffic as Kiwis raced to buy supplies.
The mayhem since Ardern's sudden announcement has been criticised by MPs.
Opposition Leader Judith Collins on Tuesday night said there was "clearly a failure" in the government's response to the crisis.
She told the NZHerald: "We have had essentially a lockdown of our borders since March, and the only people allowed in have apparently been in quarantine – clearly there is a failure.
"I am, like I'm sure the rest of the country, extremely disappointed that this has been allowed in through our borders.
"We clearly have a failure that is disappointing – I am actually so disappointed that we are not in a situation that we have been told we were in.
"I'm pinning it straight on the borders – clearly it's come in through there; clearly it's not organic to New Zealand."
Her claims come as speculation builds that the virus reentered the country not because of people, but was actually imported via refrigerated freight.
One of the family who tested positive works at a cold storage facility called Americold, with every employee now being traced.
The company's managing director Richard Winnall said the employee who tested positive normally works alongside 26 others at the facility.
But he'd made the right choice and stayed at home as soon as he began displaying symptoms, which is believed to be nine days before he eventually received a positive test.
Mr Winnall said: "Our head of operations reached out to him and his family and they are doing OK. They're overwhelmed at the attention, but doing OK."
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