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New Zealand Deploys Troops to Border to Prevent COVID-19 Spread

Medical staff prepare to take a COVID-19 tests at a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, Aug. 13, 2020.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Wednesday the government will deploy about 500 troops at quarantine facilities and border areas to help stop the spread of COVID-19 into the nation from those who might be infected with it.

A government statement says the 500 hundred troops will bring the total number of military personnel supporting the COVID-19 response to 1,200, the largest New Zealand deployment force since the country sent troops on a peace-keeping mission to Timor-Leste on a peacekeeping mission in the early 2000s.

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Ardern announced the move at a Wellington news conference, saying one of the main tasks of the troops will be to replace private security guards at the highest risk facilities, “such as entry and exit points in public areas and replace them with defense force staff."

New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield reported six new COVID-19 in the country Wednesday, one of which, he said, was an imported case — a woman in who arrived August 14 from Qatar. He said she has been in managed isolation at a hotel but will be moved to a quarantine facility in Auckland.

Bloomfield said the other five cases have all been linked to the current Auckland outbreak. He said there now are 125 people cases, which have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility, including 61 people who have tested positive along with their household contacts.

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New Zealand has fared far better than most countries during the pandemic, but the abrupt resurgence of COVID-19 last week in Auckland prompted the government to enforce an alert level 3 lockdown on the city's 1.7 million residents until August 26, while social distancing rules are in place in other towns and cities.

The country has had just 1,299 cases and 22 deaths.