There are a “sobering” 45 new Covid cases in the community today, including 12 unlinked “mystery” cases.
Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said it was the largest number of cases the country had recorded in some time. All of today’s cases are in Auckland.
A total of 33 are household or close contacts of existing cases and weren’t infectious in the community.
“In some sense they were expected,” Bloomfield said.
Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today’s number of cases was “sobering” and said no one would be celebrating.
However, it was important to place it in context, knowing a lot of cases were from big households.
“We’ve still got to hold our nerve here,” he said.
“We do expect from time to time there will be blips.”
Asked whether Auckland residents should be prepared for longer periods in current alert levels, Hipkins said it was important to remember the nature of cases was a chief aspect in informing alert level shifts.
However, he said the number of household contacts pointed to the nature of this outbreak where it was very transmissible
“I would encourage people to not read too much into it.”
Bloomfield said quite a few of the cases were in transitional housing and were moving around for a range of reasons, given their situations.
There had been a lot of engagement with gang leadership after infections had been revealed in three separate households.
However, he said they weren’t seeing many new cases in these households.
Asked about the infected cases coming from homeless people and in gangs, Bloomfield said engaging with people in transitional and emergency housing required a different approach than normal.
This included working closely with Māori and Pasifika health providers.
There is more than one transitional accommodation setting involved in the current positive case numbers, Bloomfield said.
Asked about a police officer under investigation for crossing Auckland’s boundary to attend a funeral, Hipkins said it was a matter for police but there was an expectation they followed the same rules as the public.
On National’s plan for reopening the border, Hipkins said he hadn’t had a chance to read it properly.
However, he said by the plan, it was clear National were happy for Kiwis to have Covid by Christmas in throwing open the borders and allowing thousands of people into the country.
Around 16,000 cases, 460 hospitalisations and 54 deaths per week would be realised following National’s plan, which was based on the UK, Hipkins said.
National has also proposed vaccination stations outside nightclubs, but Hipkins said it might not be the best setting given people would likely be intoxicated.
He acknowledged MIQ demand but he didn’t say it was responsible to throw open the borders, as he believed National was suggesting and would be giving up on the elimination strategy.
Hipkins said a more nuanced MIQ system was more likely in 2022 but didn’t expect it to come any earlier than that.
This was in regard to sports teams which were looking to travel to compete internationally.
Asked about individual athletes struggling to get MIQ spots, Hipkins said it was more difficult for teams to get enough rooms and need Government assistance.
Hipkins said the reality of the MIQ issue was that many people considered New Zealand a good place to be in contrast to other countries who might have more restrictions.
He believed the new online lobby booking system was fairer as it removed the “fastest finger” aspect of the previous model.
Asked about technical glitches in the current booking system, Hipkins hadn’t heard about it being a widespread issue but said he was happy to look further into it.
Vaccine volunteer infected after shared morning tea
Bloomfield confirmed a volunteer at a pop-up vaccination station had tested positive for Covid-19 after having a shared morning tea with other volunteers.
He said the “small number” of people who attended the morning tea were being treated as close contacts and isolating and being tested.
Meanwhile one person who had attended Waitakere Hospital on SaturdaySeptember 25 had returned a positive test yesterday. Some staff had been stood down and a small number of patients were being followed up, Bloomfield said.
Twelve of today’s 45 cases were currently unlinked but for six of those, some links were visible
Some were working in essential businesses during their infectious period.
Bloomfield made a call to employers to encourage their staff to get vaccinated.
He said it was essential to know what we were dealing with and thanked those who had been tested over the last few weeks.
Surveillance testing is being extended in Auckland in multiple industries like construction and retail, which operate in alert level 3, which will identify any chains of transmission
There are 21 community testing centres open in Auckland so no one should be waiting very long for a swab.
Surveillance testing is not mandatory, Bloomfield said.
It is also not required to isolate after a test without symptoms.
Four hundred people had been tested in the Tauranga area after a positive wastewater test result was announced yesterday.
Bloomfield urged the people in Tauranga and the rest of the motu to be vaccinated. “Go for it.”
Hipkins said 78 per cent of the eligible population had had their first vaccine jab.
In the last seven days, 200,000 people had had their second dose – bringing the total across NZ to 1.8 million people.
Hipkins said there would be a peak of second dose demand in the second week of October.
At midnight tomorrow, all border workers who might come into contact with Covid will have to be vaccinated
Hipkins said it gave them more security for their own health and not passing the virus on to others.
He was incredibly proud of the work of border staff, saying 98 per cent had been vaccinated with one dose and 93 per cent had had two. That included 95 per cent of port workers.
Hipkins said Cabinet has signed off the funding for a new MIQ facility in Christchurch.
He cited the complexities of standing up a new MIQ facility but was glad to add another 85 rooms to the system.
Covid case visited Auckland shopping centre on Monday
It has emerged today that a person infected with Covid-19 was at an Auckland shopping complex two days ago.
The Ministry of Health has revealed one location of interest – a person with the virus was at Kelston Mall in West Auckland on Monday afternoon for half an hour.
The affected time is between 2pm and 2.30pm.
The mall has a number of businesses within it, including a Countdown supermarket, a petrol station, cafe and a nearby McDonald’s restaurant.
Today’s update comes after the last few days have seen the number of community cases in Auckland starting to drop each day.
Eight new people were identified as community cases in yesterday’s update. The day before, 12 community cases were announced and on Monday, 18 community cases were revealed.
All of yesterday’s cases were in the Auckland region – including four people in Upper Hauraki who have tested positive for the virus but who are in the same household.
A total of 965 people in Auckland caught up in the outbreak have since recovered, as have all 17 people who came down with the virus in Wellington.
Fourteen people with Covid-19 are getting treatment in hospitals around the city – two people at North Shore Hospital, six at Auckland City Hospital and six at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland.
Of those patients, three people are being cared for in intensive care units or high dependency units.
Where to get a vaccination in Auckland – without a booking
Four Covid cases were also identified at the border in recent arrivals carrying out their mandatory 14-day managed isolation period. One of those people, a traveller from Cambodia via Singapore, is considered a historical case.
Locations of interest
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has not released any new locations of interest since Monday, when only one place linked to an infected person was announced.
That was the 77 Convenience Store at 103 Victoria St West, in the Auckland CBD opposite the Sky Tower.
The shop is connected to a person who was in the vicinity of it for six hours between 1pm and 7pm on Thursday, September 16.
The infected person is not a staff member, the shop’s management has confirmed.
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