Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: NZ’s lockdown to continue until at least midnight Friday; Auckland’s for longer
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New Zealand will stay in alert level 4 lockdown until at least midnight Friday, and Auckland will stay locked down until at least midnight on Tuesday next week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement at the Beehive this afternoon.
Cabinet decided to keep all of NZ until 11.59 pm this Friday, she said. That would allow additional data on how contained the outbreak was likely to be.
The decision would be reviewed on Friday, and an update given in the afternoon. That would depend on waste water results, and any cases outside of New Zealand.
In Auckland, Ardern said level four had to be at least a 14-day cycle.
The decision on Auckland’s lockdown will be reviewed on Monday next week.
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Ardern said the longer period will allow time for more testing of known contacts, and waste water results, as well as whether new cases had been in isolation throughout their infectious periods.
“Aucklanders will see this data and will know this two weeks is a given.”
She said the review of Auckland would determine whether the peak had been reached.
Ardern said Cabinet and the health officials remained confident about getting on top of the virus again.
“We just need to keep it up, ensure we are not in restrictions any longer than we need to be.”
She urged people to stay home, other than for essentials and to wear a mask.
“To leave level 4 we need to follow [these rules] closely.”
She confirmed Parliament would be suspended for one week.
“Physically bringing MPs to Parliament does pose risk.”
She said ministers had been asked to appear before select committees this week, which would meet virtually.
She said to people who may be a contact to isolate and get others to do your shopping.
“If you need support, please ask for it.”
She also urged people to get vaccinated.
“We are building a picture of the Delta spread.”
Ardern said re-testing of all staff at Crowne Plaza and the Jet Park facility had revealed no new clues as to how the virus got into the community.
Ardern said 108,000 tests had been taken in Auckland alone, a good representative sample. She thanked people for their perseverance in being tested.
Waste water testing had returned positive only in Auckland and Wellington.
“With Delta more certainty is needed.”
She said the move to immediate lockdown was important because Delta had a headstart on us.
She said on current numbers, each case of Delta had transmitted it to six others. That needed to be less than 1.
More than 13,000 contacts now recorded, but deliberately so.
Ardern said the more cautious approach of Delta meant there were more contacts. That meant there wouldn’t be the same certainty of reaching all those who needed to be.
Ardern held up a map of the places contacts had gone to including several in the South Island.
She said almost 8000 people left Auckland during the 48-hour window to get home after the lockdown was announced.
Any reduction in alert levels would be to level 3.
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the big exposure events they were concerned about were two weeks ago this Saturday, so that fitted with the lockdown until midnight Friday.
Ardern said the “go hard, go early” strategy last year was similar, and compared with the rest of the world it was short and sharp.
Bloomfield said his advice was for the two decisions that had since been made.
Ardern said more information and certainty was needed on where the contacts of cases had gone.
“But we do believe that is an appropriate check-in point.”
She said it also allowed a decent amount of time after the 48-hour travel period following the announcement of lockdown.
Bloomfield said most the emerging cases had a link to existing cases and a number of those today were associated with teh AOG church service.
All of the Wellington cases were linked to others, and all but one had been in isolation throughout.
Of the University of Auckland student who travelled to Wellington, he said there was a second student but it was unclear whether it was connected to the same location.
The students from the hall of residence were all being followed up.
Ardern said while person-to-person links were not always being made quickly, location links were.
On the investigation into the atrium at the Crowne Plaza, Ardern said had been debate around the exercise area but the person in question had not visited that area. That left the atrium, which was separated from the MIQ.
Officials had located all but two of the people in the atrium at the time.
“We are keeping open the lines of investigation at this time.”
That included looking at all movements and footage, and staff.
“But there is nothing to report at this point.’
Bloomfield said all staff had been tested at least once but one, who was being followed up.
Bloomfield said the oubreak was “a stretch” on the contact tracing system.
Today, extra call centre capacity had been brought on, to do the follow-up calls on those isolating. All surge capacity had been called in, and government departments were now bringing in extra people.
Ardern said the public health authorities were triaging those considered the highest priorities.
Case numbers could rise for another five days, says Verrall.
Meanwhile, new locations of interest have been added by the Ministry of Health, bringing the total to 302.
So far 13,230 contacts have been identified with less than half – 6773 – contacted by public health staff and self isolating.
The majority of the 13,230 contacts are close contacts and the number is expected to rise throughout the day as records are fully processed.
The Ministry of Health is still investigating how Covid was transferred from the New South Wales returnee at the Crowne Plaza into the community and is focusing on an open walkway while the case was in the lobby.
The public walkway is separated from the plaza by a perspex shield standing only about seven feet high.
Of the six people who walked through the walkway while the index case was in the lobby, four have been identified. Three have tested negative and one person is in the process of getting a test. Police are helping to identify the remaining two people.
The index case has been genomically linked to three other positive cases who were in a family bubble staying in the room next door at the MIQ facility in central Auckland.
As a result of the link between those cases, officials quickly put in place post-departure day five testing for returnees who were in the Crowne Plaza, and who were on the same floor and whose stay over-lapped with the infectious period of that original case.
Yesterday, more than 17,000 Covid tests were taken across Auckland – the biggest day at its community testing centres so far.
Some 11,000 were taken at community testing centres and around 6,000 at general practice and urgent care clinics.
There were also 35,766 tests processed across New Zealand.
There are 16 community testing centres running across Auckland this afternoon including a new site at Pukekohe.
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