The identification of four new cases of Covid-19 in the community this morning vindicates the government’s decision yesterday to close the country.
All the new cases are related to a 58-year-old North Shore resident, diagnosed yesterday with the virus. One such case is that of a fully vaccinated nurse at Auckland City Hospital.
Genome sequencing is being used to determine the source of the outbreak, but epidemiologist Nick Wilson says the nurse’s diagnosis tentatively indicates a link to the border.
Although this is New Zealand’s second national Alert Level 4 lockdown, after the first in March 2020, authorities and the public are navigating new territory.
The specter of the Delta variant of Covid-19 is looming over society, its ability to spread easily and quickly made notorious by New South Wales’ desperate battle to contain it over the past few weeks.
Having been complacent at first, Sydney is now in her seventh week of restrictions, including a stay-at-home order.
Unlike the Australian state, New Zealand has once again followed the health response mantra of acting “tough and early”.
During the lockdown, schools and businesses will be closed, people must stay home, except for grocery shopping, visits to pharmacies, use of gas stations, exercise in the neighborhood, and necessary medical tests or treatment.
Health officials will use contact tracing to determine places of interest and close contacts of those infected, trying to progressively close the avenues where the variant can spread.
It is a frantic race against the clock. With the four new cases discovered this morning, Auckland and the rest of the country face a dangerous few days, or possibly weeks, as the capacity of contact tracing systems is stretched to the limit.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said contact tracing may not be enough to prevent the Delta variant from spreading.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of the public to stay safe and exercise constant caution when going about their daily activities during the upcoming period.
Ways to stay safe
- Stay at home: Rule number one is to stay home whenever possible. If you don’t need to leave the house, don’t. For example, if you don’t need to go to the supermarket, wait until you actually do. Make one purchase per week, not several. Every time you leave home you are tempting fate, no matter how remote you think the possibility of contracting the virus is. This requires you to have a fundamental change of mind.
[il] Masks and distancing: Wear a mask and keep two meters away from others when you leave your home. This also requires a fundamental adjustment to how you move spatially and interact with your environment. It’s extremely easy to drift into people’s personal space, especially when shopping for food. Exercise not only caution, but also patience, allowing people to pick up items and walk away before you come to pick them up as well.
When exercising and passing people on the street, remember that it only took two doors opening simultaneously in a hallway of the MIQ facility to transmit the virus; transmits in seconds. Delta moves in a way that other variants of Covid-19 did not have the ability to. Give people a wide margin.
[il] Stay in your bubble: Staying in your bubble is the best way to have peace of mind that your Covid-19 free status has not been compromised. Just because someone is a close friend or extended family member does not make them safe or exempt from Delta’s avoidance rules. This kind of complacency is what makes clusters appear and spread. Don’t give Delta a way to move during the blockade. Stay in your bubble.
[il] Get tested if you have symptoms: If you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on getting tested. Follow their advice. Do not go to a GP clinic without first telling them you have symptoms.
[il] Scan QR codes: Scan QR codes every time you leave your home. There has been widespread complacency about the use of the Covid-19 scanning app, since the last community case in this country in February. Use of the Covid-19 Tracer app has declined since March, recent data suggesting that daily QR scanning has been only 3-5 percent of the ideal level.
It is critical that you adhere to the system. If you haven’t downloaded it to your phone yet, please do so now. Easy to follow instructions on how to do this are on the website of the Ministry of Health.
The scan will ensure that health officials advise you that you are a close contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus, so that you can get tested quickly. This may also imply a change of mind for some people, from a more libertarian attitude of “it is not correct”, to a more communal position of “it is correct”. We are all part of an interconnected society, we depend on each other to prosper as a community. Using the app is a means of protecting society as a whole, an expression of civic duty.
[il] Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, as this prevents the spread of Covid-19. The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization recommend wetting your hands with running water and applying enough soap to cover your hands. It is important to rub all surfaces of the hands, including the backs of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails for at least 20 seconds, before rinsing with running water. It is required after sneezing or coughing.
[il] The rules apply to those vaccinated: If you are fully vaccinated, the rules still apply to you; follow them scrupulously. People fully vaccinated with the Delta variant can pass the virus to other people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC cautions that earlier variants typically produced less virus in the body of fully vaccinated infected people with a ‘progressive infection’ than in an unvaccinated person. However, the Delta variant appears to produce the same high amount of virus in unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people. Although it does say that fully vaccinated people are likely to be infectious for less time than unvaccinated people.
This is an official COVID-19 ALERT.
All New Zealand You are now at Covid-19 Alert Level 4.
The alert level will be reviewed after 3 days for all areas EXCEPT Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, which will likely remain at level 4 for an initial period of 7 days.
A community case of Covid-19 has been identified.
Stay at home whenever possible and follow level 4 alert guidelines. This will stop the spread of COVID-19 and SAVE LIVES.
All are asked to:
Wear a mask and keep a distance of 2 meters from others when you leave your house.
If you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on getting tested.
Keep scanning QR codes every time you leave your home.
Practice good hygiene: wash your hands often.
Services including supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics and gas stations will remain open at alert level 4.
For more information on Alert Level 4, go to [the government website www.covid19.govt.nz]
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Kia Kaha – Stay strong