Saturday, November 27

Ashley Bloomfield on Northland Travelers, Mandatory Vaccinations, and the Covid-19 Strategy

Health officials still need to know if the women who traveled to Northland were infectious while there, says Chief Health Officer Dr. Ashley Bloomfield.

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Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Police found the second woman in West Auckland last night after a three-day search.

Bloomfield said the woman had symptoms and was not cooperating with officials at sights.

“The person I understand was being examined last night … we should have the result until this morning,” Bloomfield said.

The couple crossed the Auckland border on October 2 and spent three days in Te Tai Tokerau.

The second woman was arrested under article 70 of the Health Law. Police said they would continue to investigate and “will follow this person.”

The first woman, who tested positive for Covid-19 in Whangārei, also refused to reveal where she traveled and who she came into contact with. They are both now at MIQ.

Northland was moved to Alert Level 3 on Friday and will remain at Level 3 until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday.

Bloomfield said police believe the first woman spent two to three days in Northland, based on transactions and phone records.

“What we really want to know is more details about the places and the hours they were in those places.

“The big question is whether they were infectious in the Northland community, and that is why we need to know where they are and follow up and assess the people they may have had contact with.”

Locations of interest so far They are: Kingswood Manor Motel, Whangārei, on October 4 and Comfort Hotel Flames, Whangārei on October 3; BP Connect Wylies Woodhill gas stations on October 2-3 and Z Kensington Whangārei on October 4; and Pepe’s Dairy Onerahi on October 3.

No traces of Covid-19 have been found in sewage testing in Northland, he said.

In Waikato, where parts of the region are at Level 3, Bloomfield said “things are looking promising.”

“Part of what gives us confidence is the high levels of testing and we want them to continue for the next few days.”

Mandatory vaccinations

There has been a good response from the education and health sectors to the vaccination order announced yesterday, he said.

“Mandatory vaccination is not something that is done lightly. It is quite an extraordinary measure. These are extraordinary times.”

Consideration continues to be given to whether the mandates could be extended to other sectors. “But right now, those are two hugely important task forces and it’s great to see the broad support for those announcements.

It was a legal question whether private companies could require that staff or people visiting the company be vaccinated, rather than by the Ministry of Health.

“In many aspects [private] companies have a legal basis to do that … under health and safety legislation.

“The government will provide advice and support around that and there is ongoing work to ensure that the legal basis for that is clear.”

Air New Zealand had already said that it would only admit fully vaccinated passengers on international flights.

Bloomfield said vaccine mandates are likely to be expanded.

“There is already a precedent, both here and in other countries, it is very widespread in Australia, so I think companies will start to make their own decisions about it.”

Covid-19 strategy

Health and epidemiology experts have been analyzing whether New Zealand should allow Covid-19 to become endemic, arguing that rising deaths and hospitalizations would leave long-term costs to health and the economy.

Bloomfield said New Zealand should continue to deal with the virus on its own terms.

“In virtually every other country, this virus has become endemic and people often talk about living with the virus.

“Well, we have been living with the virus for the last twenty months.

“But, as Michael Baker very kindly put it, I think we’ve been living with this on our own terms and we want to continue to do so.

“Our conditions are an incredibly high vaccination rate and we continue to aggressively attack infections when they are in the community, which is what we continue to do.”

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