Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Level 4 in Auckland extended for another week, rest of NZ to stay in level 2

Auckland will remain at level 4 for another week, until 11.59pm on September 21, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

Cabinet has made an in-principle decision that Auckland will move to level 3 at that time.

Level 2 will remain for outside Auckland for another week, and Cabinet will review these settings on Monday next week.

Ardern said Aucklanders were owed a debt of gratitude for the ongoing lockdown and that “the next week will be critical in providing the additional reassurance we need”.

Ardern asked residents in Mt Eden, Massey, Mangere, Favona, Papatoetoe, Otara and Manurewa to be especially vigilant.

“Please stick to your bubble. Stay home as much as possible. Try to reduce risk by having just one person go to the shop or supermarket.”

Earlier today, 33 new community cases were announced – all in Auckland. It is the highest number of daily cases in several days.

However, just one of those cases was at that time yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak (meaning no person-to-person link with prior cases) had been established.

That case was a person who presented to Middlemore Hospital on Saturday. However, their seven other household members have also tested positive and are linked.

Ardern said that Delta was likely to be passed on to family members, which means numbers will keep “rumbling along”. About another 50 cases were expected in coming days due to the number of close contacts of identified cases.

That didn’t mean alert level 4 wasn’t working in Auckland, she said. The R value at the start of the outbreak was six or higher, but is now below 1.

Surveillance testing across certain suburbs and health care workers had not found any cases, she said.

“It is also clear there is not widespread transmission of the virus in Auckland.”

But there were still three clusters producing cases outside household or close contact circles, and there were still unlinked cases.

In the last two weeks, 17 cases remain unlinked, and of those, only a handful were of “particular concern”. Experts say the number of unlinked mystery cases is a key factor that could keep Auckland in lockdown.

Questioned on the different alert levels across the country, Ardern said they did not believe there were cases outside Auckland. But they wanted restrictions in place in case there was a case to be able to stamp it out very quickly.

There had not yet been a conversation about a potential level 3 to level 1 split, Ardern said. There had been some consideration about a “level 1.5” but more would be revealed next week.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the signs were good. The lockdown was working, testing was at a good level, and there were just a few cases giving concern. An extra week would give them the time needed to find those extra cases.

“I have a high level of confidence we will get around this outbreak,” he said.

Today’s cases took the outbreak to 9555 overall – 938 in Auckland and 17 in Wellington.

The outlook for Auckland last week indicated a slim chance of no more spread outside of people’s bubbles by this week, but this changed after four cases visited Middlemore Hospital, sparking a series of new cases.

While case numbers remain low and contained, experts warn lifting Auckland out of lockdown too soon could risk reigniting the outbreak.

Those cases are also well spread across the city: Mt Eden, Mangere, Massey, Favona, Papatoetoe, Otara and Manurewa.

There are eight epidemiologically linked subclusters – the two largest subclusters are the Māngere church group (381) and the Birkdale social network cluster (76).

Nine subclusters are not epidemiologically linked.

There are 21 people with Covid in hospital and four in ICU.

Seven of yesterday’s 20 cases had exposure events. The other 13 were in isolation throughout the period they were infectious.

Some 8657 Covid tests have been carried out in the last 24 hours – and almost half of those have been in Auckland.

Ardern urged New Zealanders to get tested, even if they had the mildest symptoms.

“Please don’t put it down to winter chills,” she said.

She said Aucklanders booked in for a jab in October should jump online again to check for earlier appointments, or they should go to a drive-thru, where appointments weren’t necessary.

Bloomfield said we were now vaccinating at a great rate and it was important more people were vaccinated.

It was not good if the overall rate was high but there were pockets of vulnerable people unvaccinated, he said.

Another fortnight of the wage subsidy will now be triggered by the extra week in alert level 4.

Another round of the resurgence support payment will open on Friday.

“If you think you might be eligible for assistance, tap into what’s there,” Ardern said.

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