NEW ZEALAND has had its 24-day streak with no coronavirus cases ended after two people who entered the country from the UK were confirmed to have the virus.
Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared the country to be Covid-free after almost a month with no new cases, lifting restrictions and allowing life to return to relative normality.
The country remained mostly closed to travellers from outside New Zealand, with only citizens and essential workers allowed to enter unless express permission had been granted under special circumstances.
Anyone entering the country is required to undergo a 14-day period of isolation and must be tested for the virus.
However, two new cases have now been confirmed after two women from the same family received special permission to travel from the UK and leave isolation early in order to attend a parent's funeral, according to RTÉ.
It is not known whether the women were citizens of New Zealand, the UK or elsewhere, but New Zealand's director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed there had been an "agreed plan in place as part of the approval process" to allow the women to enter the country.
The patients, aged in their 30s and 40s, entered New Zealand via Doha and Brisbane on 7 June, and quarantined in a managed isolation hotel in Auckland, where on 12 June they applied for an exemption to visit their dying parent, who passed away later that night.
On 13 June they received permission to travel to Wellington in order to attend the funeral, and did not use any public transport, according to Dr Bloomfield.
One woman had "mild symptoms" but assumed it was due to a pre-existing condition she had, according to the outlet.
The women were tested for the virus on Monday, 15 June and received a positive result the next day, and the family member with whom they were staying has now been placed in isolation.
Dr Bloomfield said the new cases will change the way New Zealand approaches compassionate exemption, and anyone now wishing to be released will require to have been tested and receive a negative result before they are allowed to leave isolation.
The two new cases brings New Zealand's total confirmed cases to 1,506.