Regions south of Auckland woke up this morning to a relief from lockdown restrictions, with a Level 3 alert response allowing businesses to limit trade and the public to varying degrees of freedom.
But new cases from New Zealand’s Covid-19 community jumped from 49 yesterday to 75 today, underscoring warnings from health experts that the battle against the Delta variant is far from over.
One of the cases was in Wellington, an asymptomatic household contact who had been in isolation. The other cases were in Auckland.
The Director General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, emphasized that there was no cause for alarm and that the models showed that the blockade continued to break the transmission chains. Bloomfield said that 75 percent of the new cases did not create any exposure events.
About 40 supermarkets in Auckland were named places of interest today, but were deemed “low risk”. These were added as an additional precaution, the Health Ministry said.
It was revealed today that two Auckland hospitals had carried out emergency construction work to make more zero pressure rooms for Covid-19 patients. Auckland City Hospital and Middlemore Hospital have been expanded with the Auckland Delta outbreak, with patient rooms either at capacity or close by.
Vaccines speed up
Vaccination efforts across the country were in full swing today.
Almost 70 percent of the eligible population have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or have reserved to have one, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told the media this afternoon.
About 1.9 million future vaccines were on the reserve system, with 68 percent of New Zealanders over 12 and 83 percent of those over 40 having been vaccinated or booked for at least one injection.
About half of the eligible population has already received a dose of the vaccine.
Hipkins said the government was trying to increase the supply of vaccines and that the existing supply would now be concentrated in Auckland. Bloomfield previously said Morning report If daily vaccine supplies could not match the current high demand, then deployment areas could slow down to prioritize Auckland.
The announcement was received by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
In a statement from Auckland City Council today, Goff encouraged people to bring their children to get vaccinated.
“As of today, all New Zealanders over the age of 12 are eligible for Covid-19 vaccination,” he said.
“The latest community outbreak shows that people of all ages, including young people, are affected, and the best protection against the disease and its spread is to get vaccinated,” he said.
“More than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in Auckland and the city has one of the highest per capita vaccination rates in the country.”
Hospitals Seek Intensive Care Nurses
Auckland hospitals asked other DHBs to send intensive care nurses to bolster the number, with dozens of Covid-19 patients in hospitals, eight in intensive care and three on ventilators, as of last night.
Bloomfield said other nurses and health care assistants in Auckland were also being asked for help today.
Drive-thru vaccination in Marae rolling Success
Bloomfield said today that vaccination rates in Maori and Pacific people have doubled in recent weeks.
His statement was corroborated by a slew of people queuing at Auckland’s first car vaccination site in a marae, an initiative that helps raise rates among Maori.
With 35 employees at Papakura Marae, officials expected to vaccinate 500 people a day.
Papakura Marae CEO Tony Kake said such vaccination sites were vital as they were places that Maori knew and trusted.
“We really want to encourage our Maori whanau to go to any of the vaccination centers, not just in Papakura Marae but anywhere in the country,” he said.
Changes to the MIQ reservation system
Requests for border MIQ were stopped today to help officials safely house the growing number of people with Covid-19.
MIQ coupons for people who want to return from abroad will not be available for a couple of weeks. Emergency assignments were still being processed.
The fairness of the reservation system had been in question for several months. Hipkins told the media today that once it is operational again, changes will be made with the introduction of a new pilot system.
He said that when a large number of spots became available, they would be announced. He said that when a room was released there would be a “virtual lobby.”
“Lobbying means that people who enter the site within a specified period of time have an equal chance of passing to try to secure a room. Entry to the site will be random, eliminating the need to be the fastest,” said the MY Q. website said today.
Borders at alert level monitored
Police saw good compliance at the Auckland border, although the police have returned a small number of people.
Over 3,300 companies, covering 23,500 employees, had been granted exemptions to travel across the border.
Police said its five checkpoints south of Auckland were running smoothly, with limited problems.
Inspector Kay Lane said the number of vehicles had been quite low and most people had the correct documentation ready to show officers.
However, police said two people flew from Auckland without exemptions on Monday, one to Wellington and one to Dunedin.
Commissioner Andrew Coster said both people had been issued notices of violation and that police had been working with public health officials to control the risk.
As of 5 p.m. yesterday, officers had issued more than 2,700 lockdown violation notices across the country, he said.
In addition, 139 people had been charged with crimes, including breach of lockdown, violation of health laws, and assault or threat to the police.
Meanwhile, Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson told a Select Committee in Parliament that he was “a fan” of iwi checkpoints at regional borders.
Jackson said he understood why people wanted to establish community checkpoints, but he also appreciated that they were controversial.
Jackson said he had spoken with Deputy Police Commissioner Walley Haumaha about ways to reduce the slack a bit with those who wanted to establish checkpoints.
Domestic abuse help
Police urged anyone experiencing abuse or violence to seek support.
In the first week of alert level 4, the number of family injury incidents reported to police increased by 3.9 percent, preliminary data showed today. In the second week, it increased 6.2 percent.
“As we enter the third week of alert level restrictions, the police are urging anyone who experiences abuse or violence to seek support,” said Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.
“While there has been a small increase, reports of family damage fluctuate due to a variety of external factors and the data remains within the normal range,” he added.
“If you feel scared, threatened or unsafe, call us at 111.
“If you can’t call, put down your bubble and ask a neighbor or passerby to call you.
“We also urge anyone with concerns about a loved one or friend to call us on their behalf – it could be saving their life.”
Changes in the display of the funeral home
Under an alert level 4 change, grieving families were allowed to see their loved ones at funeral homes starting today.
Whānau could visit funeral homes registered during alert level 4, but only if they were in the same bubble.
The Funeral Directors Association welcomed the government’s response, after it made the proposal last week.