Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today that Auckland will remain at Covid-19 Alert Level 4 for another week until 11:59 pm next Tuesday. The cabinet has made a decision in principle that Tāmaki Makaurau will then go to alert level 3.
The rest of New Zealand will remain at Alert Level 2 until Tuesday next week.
The alert level settings will be reviewed next Monday.
While there is nothing to indicate that Covid-19 is outside of Auckland, the lower restrictions there mean a much higher risk of spread if it escapes, he said.
Health Director-General Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said “the lockdown is working” and that it’s really just a small number of cases the ministry is focusing on.
“Testing is at a good level … so our opinion and our advice is that another week locked in at alert level 4 in Auckland gives us our best chance to really finish the job here.”
Before the announcement, University of Otago epidemiologist professor Michael Baker said today’s Covid-19 numbers support the argument that Auckland remains at alert level 4 for at least another week.
“So some of these cases in the community could crop up or flare up as outbreaks or clusters and that’s not what we want to see right now.”
There was already concern about the situation in Auckland before today’s figures, he said.
“And that’s not just about the numbers, but the fact that we are still seeing unexpected cases every day and that is just as important as the total.”
Any lowering of the alert level in Auckland would ease pressure from the virus and risk undoing all the good work the city had already done to suppress the virus, Baker said.
Cases spike after yesterday’s crash
Today 33 new community cases of Covid-19 are reported, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.
In a statement, the ministry said there were also three new cases in managed isolation facilities.
All new cases are in Auckland, bringing the total number of community cases in the current outbreak to 955.
The ministry said 32 of today’s cases have been epidemiologically linked. The only case that has not yet been linked is that of a person who presented at Middlemore Hospital on Saturday. There are seven other people in your household. All seven are included in today’s 33.
There are eight epidemiologically linked subgroups. The two largest subgroups are the Māngere church group – 381 and the Birkdale social network group – 76. There are nine epidemiologically unrelated subgroups, the ministry said.
At the hospital, there are 21 cases: four in the North Shore, seven in Auckland and 10 in Middlemore. There are also four cases in ICU or HDU.
That brings the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 3,593.
Ardern said surveillance tests of health workers and essential workers had also failed to identify any transmission.
“It is also clear that there is no widespread transmission of the virus in Auckland.”
Demand for food packages
A Pacific social service provider says demand for food and essentials in Auckland remains high and a recently announced government fund will help.
The government announced this morning an additional $ 10 million for food and basic necessities.
Pasifika Futures CEO Debbie Sorensen says the organization is in contact with more than 300 people from Pasifika who are in quarantine.
So far, Pasifika Futures has spent more than $ 7.5 million on 22,000 support packages and while the delivery of the packages was a bit slow for the first two weeks of the lockdown, now there’s no waiting, says Sorensen.
Considered charges for Wānaka travelers
Police said they are considering charges to bring against the couple who disobeyed lockdown rules while traveling to Wānaka from Auckland last week.
The couple used their essential worker status at a border checkpoint to get to Hamilton and then flew to their vacation home in Wānaka.
The couple, a 26-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man, will be prosecuted for violating the current Sanitary Order.
The couple will receive a summons to appear in court next week.
Police said they were notified via the online Covid-19 compliance reporting tool and found the couple on Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult wants to know what the police will do to prevent another violation of the lockdown rules and the possible spread of Covid-19 in the local community.
Boult told Morning Report that the act of selfishness had put the city’s Covid-free status and economic well-being at risk and that he would be consulting with the police on the matter.
“I just don’t get down on the selfishness of people who think it’s okay to do that,” he said.
Boult said it was not the first such incident and now he wanted a plan to mitigate the risk of people crossing the alert level borders into the region.
“Do you think about the people that you are possibly putting in danger? I think not. But my question today is for the police and how can we make sure this does not happen again.”
Ardern’s message to the people of Aucklanders
Ardern gave a special thanks to the Auckland locals who have been making it difficult at level 4:
“To all Auckland residents, you have done an incredible job thus far protecting yourself, your family and your community.
“We owe him a huge debt of gratitude … but the cases tell us we have additional work to do.”
She said that four weeks after the lockdown, it might be tempting to relax her bubble, but she asked everyone to treat every day as seriously as they did the first day.
People should have a person assigned to go to the supermarket, Ardern said.
Auckland hospital limits visitors
The Auckland District Board of Health will only allow patient visits for compassionate reasons, after a nurses union took legal action challenging its policy regarding visitors.
Starting at 7am on Tuesday morning, visits to Auckland Hospital will be limited to compassionate grounds.
This follows the New Zealand Nurses Organization taking legal action against the health board to tighten its visitor policy to match the Manukau and Waitematā counties DHBs.
Previously, Auckland Hospital patients were allowed to nominate two visitors, one of whom could visit on any day.
All visitors were screened for symptoms of Covid-19.
Suburbs focused on mysterious cases
Seven Auckland suburbs will be the focus of testing and contact tracing this week as health officials try to decipher the mysterious Covid-19 cases.
Health officials are hunting for the virus in Mt Eden, Massey, Māngere, Favona, Papatoetoe, Ōtara and Manurewa.
That was where they had the biggest concerns about the 34 cases with no known ties to current groups.
Health authorities had already conducted surveillance tests: they were looking for the virus in asymptomatic people rather than waiting for it to appear when people fell ill.
Last week they were at essential workplaces, including Countdown’s distribution center and its two department stores for online deliveries.
Covid-19 in Australia
New South Wales has had 1,257 new local Covid-19 cases and seven deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
There have now been 184 Covid-19 related deaths in New South Wales since June 16, 2021, and 240 total deaths since the start of the pandemic.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said 46.2 percent of NSW adults over the age of 16 have received two doses of vaccines and 78.5 percent have received their first dose.
Meanwhile, Victoria has recorded 473 new locally acquired Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day count of the outbreak so far.
Queensland today registered two new cases of Covid-19 acquired locally in the last 24 hours, but both were in home quarantine.
ACT registered 13 new community cases of Covid-19 and at least 10 of them spent some time being infectious in the community. Six of the new cases have yet to be linked to a known case or site of transmission.