All eyes are on the latest number of Covid-infected people in the community today as Cabinet meets this afternoon to decide whether Auckland will be finally moving out of the country’s strictest lockdown this week.
The latest numbers will be released in a statement by the Ministry of Health at 1pm. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will front a press conference at 4pm to announce Cabinet’s alert level decision.
Auckland has already been in lockdown for two weeks more than the rest of the country and as the number of new people with Covid bounced back to double figures over the weekend, experts are now warning the city may be facing longer in level 4.
The 34 “mystery cases” which – as of yesterday – had no known link to the any of the 17 sub clusters were of a particular concern to the government.
The Ministry of Health will release the latest numbers at 1pm as cabinet meets to discuss any changes in alert levels for the entire country. The Prime Minister will then hold a press conference at 4pm to announce the decisions.
Yesterday there were 20 new community Covid cases – all of them in Auckland, followed by 23 on Saturday.
Of the 20 cases yesterday, eight were still yet to be epidemiologically linked.
The number of people now infected with Covid bouncing back to double figures comes as a blow to Aucklanders who were starting to get optimistic a move in alert changes could be coming when Friday’s figures slumped to a low of just 11 community cases.
While the government has previously said it would not necessarily wait until 0 cases in the community before moving alert levels – it has been concerned by the number of unlinked or “mystery cases” popping up.
As of yesterday there were eight epidemiologically linked sub clusters including the Mangere church and Birkdale social clusters and nine sub clusters that were epidemiologically unlinked.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told Newshub this morning that he would not pre-empt cabinet’s decision today.
He didn’t believe there was wide community transmission in Auckland, but said there were a “handful of mystery cases” that were concerning and they needed to know just how far the spread was.
Level 4 was tough, but it was the best chance of getting on top of the virus and breaking the chain of transmission, he said. “That is happening, but there are still a few cases at the edges.”
He promised the government would to make sure it laid out a very clear plan for Aucklanders this afternoon.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told TVNZ this morning he thought it was too early for Auckland to move out of level 4 and doing so could see new Covid cases flaring up again.
He said the mystery cases could prove to be a problem – in that they could easily spark up other clusters.
“The trouble is these are people we don’t know about.
“This is the end of the outbreak in Auckland and we just have to persist for a few more days.”
Pacific health expert Dr Collin Tukuitonga told TVNZ this morning he also felt it was too early for Auckland to come out of alert level 4 based on the new and mystery cases still popping up in the community.
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