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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (Image: AAP/Boris Jancic)

The deeply unwanted message out of Auckland this week is that nowhere is safe from COVID-19. Not even the poster child of the pandemic, New Zealand -- which racked up nearly three months without a new case -- has been able to keep it at bay.

No one at this stage knows how a South Auckland man and his family contracted the virus and how many work and school colleagues have been infected. There's no obvious connection with travel or recent entry to the country which, as in Australia, is limited to citizens and a tiny number of exceptions, and via quarantine.

The likely scenarios -- that the virus penetrated NZ's border restrictions Victoria-style, or that it has been circulating undetected in the community -- are equally alarming.