Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed today that the government is close to obtaining additional vaccines as companies and organizations outside of Auckland prepare for Tier 2.
Twenty-one new community cases were announced today. They are all in Auckland and there is an additional case yet to be determined, a border or community case.
Chief Health Officer Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said the outbreak now stands at 841 cases, of which 147 have recovered.
The total number of unrelated cases has fallen from 33 yesterday to 24 today, he said.
Some 7255 tests were processed in the labs yesterday, of which around 5,800 were performed in the Greater Auckland area.
Government ‘finalizing arrangements’ for additional vaccines
Ardern told the nation at the 1:00 pm press conference that the government was in the final stages of organizing additional supplies of the Pfizer vaccine.
They would complement the current stock of 682,000. Officials had planned to deliver 350,000 doses each week, but a recent surge in vaccines has seen a spike in demand of “more than” a million.
“These quick negotiations have been taking place behind the scenes in recent weeks,” he said.
“As a result of these efforts, we are now finalizing arrangements that ensure an additional supply in September. This will allow us to maintain our extraordinary vaccination rates throughout the month of September until our bulk deliveries arrive in October.”
There would be enough to support our Pacific neighbors, Ardern said.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 researcher Rāwiri Taonui said that clinics that are supposed to prioritize Maori and Pasifika are being “flooded” by Pākehā.
Accelerated saliva test
Bloomfield said saliva testing is intensifying and a contract with an additional supplier is being finalized.
“It’s a slime in a cup, rather than a nasopharyngeal swab … there are no capacity limitations with our current vendor providing it across the border [workforce]we are, however, finalizing a contract with an additional vendor … for people who will be crossing the Auckland boundary and also to support some of the other targeted surveillance testing if needed on some of those employers in the Auckland region in the next two weeks. “
More than 830 border workers have signed up for saliva testing, he said, and it will be available to more people over time.
Ardern rejected the idea that the Ministry of Health had been slow to bring saliva tests, when he was questioned by Morning report.
However, a leading US epidemiologist said that Ardern had been poorly advised on the matter.
Yale researcher Dr. Anne Wyllie, who is from New Zealand, has criticized the government for months-long delays in using saliva tests to control Covid-19 outbreaks.
The faster and less invasive tests have been widely used abroad for more than a year.
But the Health Ministry has persisted with PCR nasal swabs that take much longer to give a result and therefore slow detection of outbreaks.
Frustration with Auckland border tests
All essential workers crossing the Auckland border are now required to undergo a Covid-19 test every seven days.
The Executive Director of the Road Transport Forum, Nick Leggett, said Morning report the move will take essential workers off the road and may mean crucial cargo not being delivered.
“Many truck drivers work all night,” he said, adding that they may need to be tested at a time when they are tired and should be sleeping.
Ardern defended the policy], saying that although he put an additional requirement on workers who already have passes to cross the border, “this is the price that we have the country with more freedoms.”
They were working with the industry to make it as easy as possible, he said.
Some companies were already using saliva tests to monitor staff, but Ardern said the government was considering whether to hire specific vendors to help with that test flow.
Testing every seven days was a step that will help build confidence that cases will not move from the city to other regions, he said.
Regions outside Auckland gearing up for the new Tier 2
Regions outside Auckland are preparing for ‘delta 2’ and the new rules that come with it. All of New Zealand except its largest city will move to Level 2 at 11:59 PM tonight.
The National Party says the government has taken businesses by surprise with its new level 2 rules and that the government had plenty of time to signal changes.
Companies have been quick to adapt the way they do things.
An Air New Zealand spokesperson said there will be a 50-person limit in Koru lounges and passengers will be asked to wear masks at the terminal.
Leanne Geraghty said passengers will still be able to transit Auckland.
Personnel will also need to wear masks throughout the terminal.
Monterey Cinemas owner Kelly Rogers said there will be a maximum of 50 people in theaters, and staff and patrons will be required to wear their masks.
There will be contactless ticketing, mandatory scanning, and additional on-call staff to ensure everyone abides by the rules, including staying in their assigned seats.
NZSki CEO Paul Anderson said there will be a scanning gateway on the access road to each ski field where guests will be asked to check in using the tracking app on their way up.
Anderson said the restrictions will limit the capacity in its cafes and restaurants to 50 people per indoor area.
Meanwhile, the Wellington on a Plate festival will return for a second serving tomorrow.
It was halted in the middle when the country moved to level 4 and then replaced with a directory of companies making findings at level 3.
School leaders have expressed confusion over the new rules.
The Principals Federation is asking for clarity on why indoor masks are required in public places but optional in schools, while the Vaughan Couillault Secondary Principals Association said it was relieved that it is a recommendation rather than a requirement.
While both staff and students often wear masks in the first few days or weeks, they disappear quickly, he said. Guidelines will be issued, but questions remain, he said.
Wage subsidy still available for all NZ
Ardern clarified today that all New Zealand businesses remain eligible for the wage subsidy as long as any part of the country remains at Tier 4.
This, for example, meant that Queenstown companies could apply while Auckland is blocked.
Companies at Tier 2 will still qualify if they can show that their turnover has been reduced by 50 percent, he said.