Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand to go into lockdown after first case in six months

New Zealand is being sent into a snap lockdown after a case of COVID-19 emerged in Auckland.

It’s the country’s first case in the community since February.

Auckland and Coromandel will go into a seven-day lockdown from 11.59pm tonight, while the rest of the country will go into a three-day lockdown.

A 58-year-old man tested positive after visiting a doctor today with officials believing he was infectious since August 12.

Authorities are waiting for genome sequencing but are treating it as if it is the Delta variant.

The infected man had travelled from Auckland to Coromandel with his wife on the weekend.

The man isn’t vaccinated but his wife is.

“Going hard and early has worked for us before. We know that Delta is a more dangerous enemy to combat, the same actions we applied last year can work again,” NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

All schools and non-essential businesses will close with people only able to leave their homes for essential shopping, exercise or medical care.

More to come. 

New Zealand investigating new local Covid-19 case

There are fears the Delta variant has spread into the New Zealand community, with reports that authorities there are investigating a potential case today.

The case was picked up in Auckland early this afternoon, but there is currently no obvious links with the border or managed isolation operations.

“The Auckland Regional Public Health unit is undertaking interviews with the case for contact tracing purposes,” a statement reads.

“While we collect more specific information all Ne Zealanders are reminded of the basic public health measures of mask-wearing and hash washing.

“In particular anyone in Auckland catching public transport this afternoon or who cannot socially distance in public spaces should wear a mask as a precaution.”

Ministers are expected to meet this afternoon after more information is collected in regards to the case.

However, officials have already indicated that it could mean a snap lockdown.

“A hard and early response is the best tool to stamp out any potential spread and everyone in New Zealand is asked to stay calm, be kind and play their part while we gather more information on the potential case,” the statement reads.

An update is expected later this afternoon.

US President backs decision to leave Afghanistan in turmoil

The President of the United States has broken his silence on the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, backing in his decision to leave the country to the Taliban.

“How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistans’ civil war when Afghan troops will not?” Joe Biden asked.

It comes as horror scenes are seen in Kabul, of crowds of Afghanis trying to get onto planes at the airport.

Most disturbingly, some clung to the wheels of aircraft as they took off, then falling to their deaths when the plane was in the air.

Women and girls are already been taken from their homes to be ‘married off’ to Taliban soldiers.

The US President admitted that the Taliban takeover happened much quicker than they had anticipated, but they won’t be staying behind to fight a civil war.

“How many more lives – American lives – is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetary? I’m clear on my answer,” he said.

US troops are still helping with evacuations of diplomats at the moment, an operation that Australian forces are also trying to help with.

While many who served in the 20-year conflict are now questioning whether or not it was even worth it.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told The Today Show that it’s an extremely difficult situation.

I think it says of American activity that they’re either dammed if they’re in place and they’re dammed if they withdraw,” Mr Dutton said.

“That’s been the case with many conflicts. You could stay in Afghanistan for another 20 years, another 100 years and you may or may not see peace.

“Let’s be realistic about it. Our objective when we went to Afghanistan was to stop al Qaeda from committing another 9/11 attack in Australia or in America or elsewhere and make sure it wasn’t a launching pad for that next attack.

“We’ve achieved both of those but it’s 10 years since Osama bin Laden was located and we have spent, I think, a lot of effort, along with our allies in training up Afghanis but as President Biden pointed out; if people aren’t prepared to fight their own country, it is very hard for the US to fight for it,” he said.

The Taliban begins taking control of Afghanistan after conquering capital

The Taliban is on the brink of taking total control after moving into the Afghanistan capital of Kabul this morning.

The country’s president Ashraf Ghani has fled the country while there is chaos at the airport with thousands trying to get out of there.

The insurgents seized the presidential palace as well, with officials earlier reporting that talks had taken place to ensure a peaceful transition of power.

A spokesman for the Taliban’s political office told Al Jazeera the war was over in Afghanistan.

They’re now understood to be figuring out how to form a government.

“We assure everyone that we will provide safety for citizens and diplomatic missions,” the spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

“We are ready to have a dialogue with all Afghan figures and will guarantee them the necessary protection.”

The rapid take over follows the withdrawal of US troops and allies after a 20-year-long operation.

Some 5,000 troops were being deployed over the weekend to try and evacuate diplomats from Kabul before the Taliban closed it.

Late last week there was a report that around 80 Australians may be in the city.

Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sunrise that the government is working with allies, but he couldn’t share any details about specific operations.

“We’re continuing to work with our partners and allies about the desperate situation that’s there, also working with the New Zealand government, I spoke to Jacinda Ardern last night.

“We’re convening again about the work that we’re putting in and the operations that we’re putting in,” Mr Morrison said.

Taliban capture another big Afghan city

Balkh lawmaker Abas Ebrahimzada said the province’s national army corps surrendered first, which prompted the pro-government militias and other forces to lose morale and give up in the face of the onslaught.

According to the lawmaker, all of the provincial installations, including the governor’s office, are in Taliban hands.

The insurgents have captured much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan in a breakneck offensive less than three weeks before the US is set to withdraw its last troops, raising fears of a full militant takeover or another Afghan civil war.

The Taliban have made major advances in recent days, including capturing Herat and Kandahar, the country’s second- and third-largest cities.

They now control about 23 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving the Western-backed government with a smattering of provinces in the centre and east, as well as Kabul.

On Saturday, the Taliban captured all of Logar province, just south of the capital, Kabul, and detained local officials, said Hoda Ahmadi, a lawmaker from the province.

She said the Taliban have reached the Char Asyab district, just seven miles south of Kabul.

Later, the insurgents took over Mihterlam, the capital of Laghman province, northeast of Kabul, without a fight.

Insurgents also captured the capital of Paktika, bordering Pakistan, according to Khalid Asad, a lawmaker from the province.

He said fighting broke out in Sharana early Saturday but the governor and other officials surrendered and were on their way to Kabul.

The Taliban also took control of Maimana, the capital of northern Faryab province.

Sayed Hussan Gerdezi, a lawmaker from the neighbouing Paktia province, said the Taliban seized most of its local capital, Gardez, but that battles with government forces were still under way. The Taliban said they controlled the city.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a televised speech Saturday, his first public appearance since the recent Taliban gains.

He vowed not to give up the “achievements” of the 20 years since the US toppled the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

The US has continued holding peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar this week, and the international community has warned that a Taliban government brought about by force would be shunned.

But the insurgents appear to have little interest in making concessions as they rack up victories on the battlefield.

The president had flown to Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday to rally the city’s defences, meeting several militia commanders, including Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ata Mohammad Noor, who command thousands of fighters.

They remain allied with the government but warlords have been known to switch sides for their own survival.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes, with many fearing a return to the Taliban’s oppressive rule.

The group had previously governed Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law in which women were forbidden to work or attend school, and could not leave their homes without a male relative accompanying them.

Salima Mazari, one of the few female district governors in the country, has never even considered surrendering.

“There will be no place for women,” said Ms Mazari, who governs a district of 36,000 people near Mazar-e-Sharif.

“In the provinces controlled by the Taliban, no women exist there any more, not even in the cities. They are all imprisoned in their homes.”

Afghans have been streaming into Kabul’s international airport in recent days, desperate to fly out, even as more American troops have arrived to help partially evacuate the US embassy.

© RAW 2021