Saturday, November 27

Covid-19 wrap: government hints at next phase in pandemic response, vaccination targets

Restrictions to ease for Northland, vaccination target in sight for Auckland and children back to school locked up.

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Photo: Pool NZME / 123RF / RNZ / 123RF

60 new community cases, retired village worker tests positive

Today there were 60 new community cases of Covid-19 in the country, reported the Ministry of Health.

In a statement, the ministry said 57 of today’s new community cases were in Auckland and three in Waikato.

He said that as of 10 a.m., 36 of the cases were linked, 18 of which were household contacts, and 24 remained unrelated, and investigations continue to help determine their connection to the outbreak.

Today there were 30 cases of Covid-19 in the hospital: five in the North Shore, 12 in Middlemore and 13 in Auckland. Five cases were in the ICU or HDU.

There were also five new cases at the border: one from the United States, one from Lebanon, one from India, one from Greece, and one from the United Kingdom.

The ministry also revealed that a staff member at the Remuera Gardens retirement village in Auckland was confirmed to have Covid-19 and was at work while infected.

“Public health personnel are confident that the risk of infection is low, but as a precaution, tests are being organized for all staff and residents. Both staff and residents of the village have very high vaccination rates.”

The ministry said there had been 4,696 cases since the pandemic began.

Northland to move to level 2, parts of Waikato remain at level 3

It was announced today that Northland will move to Alert Level 2 at 11:59 pm on October 19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it appeared that people who traveled to Northland had not further spread Covid-19.

Whangārei Deputy Mayor Greg Innes said the decision to ease restrictions in Northland was welcome.

But he said concerns about a Covid-positive woman’s exposure who traveled through the region have not disappeared.

For Waikato, Ardern said “the situation is different” with parts of the region currently at level 3 to remain there with a review on Friday.

Ardern said caution was necessary in Waikato after positive cases and sewage tests came back positive.

Auckland will stay at level 3, step 1 for two weeks

Auckland will remain at level three with the current restrictions for another two weeks.

Ardern said any easing of restrictions during this time would not work for the plan to minimize cases while increasing vaccination rates.

There are now cases of Covid-19 in 124 Auckland suburbs, he said.

She said the Alert Level 3 rules in Auckland are the most stringent restrictions in place anywhere in the OECD at the moment.

Ardern acknowledged that experts suggested a level 4 circuit breaker for Auckland, but said public health warned that the number of cases would be unlikely to be reduced “due to the nature of the outbreak and compliance has been an issue.”

“I know this is difficult and I want to acknowledge the continued impact on Auckland businesses of staying at Tier 3.”

He said an enhanced business support package for Auckland is in the works and will be released on Friday.

“If we do this right, if we keep the number of cases low while we vaccinate people, then it will be easier for us to stay in control of Covid while we ease restrictions in the future,” Ardern said.

He said breach of level 3 rules had been one of the biggest contributors to new cases.

The government will announce a new Covid-19 protection strategy

Today, the prime minister revealed that the government will announce a new ‘Covid-19 protection framework’ on Friday for when the country has a higher vaccination rate.

RNZ understands that ministers will consider a traffic light-like system that New Zealand could move to once the population is highly vaccinated.

It could mark the next phase, away from using alert level restrictions, to a combination of protective measures in case of outbreaks.

That could include wearing masks, gathering limits, social distancing, proof of vaccination, and scanning.

It could take a few months before it is ready to be implemented.

However, in today’s briefing, Ardern did not confirm whether the Covid protection framework will be a “traffic light system.”

I go back to school, but the confinement continues for many

Nearly 400,000 children in Auckland, Northland and Waikato began the last school term of the year today by learning from home.

Schools in all three regions are remote learning because they are at alert level 3, although in Northland and Waikato that state was scheduled to change tonight.

Auckland principals told RNZ that re-engaging children and preparing teens for the NCEA exams were their priorities for the fourth quarter.

Carmel College principal Chris Allen said his school would start the fourth quarter with only one student on site.

The most important job ahead was to prepare seniors for the NCEA exams in November, he said.

On Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will provide updated advice on reopening schools.

Vaccination target in sight for Auckland

Health Director General Ashley Bloomfield told Morning Report that current projections show that Auckland will take just over a month before 90 percent of its population is fully vaccinated.

Bloomfield said the weekend’s Vaxathon Super Saturday gave a major boost to vaccination numbers across the country, but is now focused on helping those still hesitant to get vaccinated to get the vaccine as well.

“I think it was a great day,” he said, reflecting on the more than 130,000 people who received a first or second dose on Saturday.

“The feeling of energy and collective action was really cool.”

Just over 70 percent of Auckland’s eligible population was now fully vaccinated, and 89 percent had received a dose.

Bloomfield said the numbers were encouraging and that the models showed the city could reach the milestone of 90 percent complete vaccinations in the next “three to four weeks.”

Auckland residents who disobey restrictions cause frustration

Police are investigating a party at a North Shore home after a video was posted online showing people apparently celebrating, prompting multiple complaints.

Images have been circulating on Instagram of the event attended by dozens of young adults who appeared to be disobeying Covid-19 restrictions.

A party goer posted that attending the party and breaking the rules was “a huge regret” and a “selfish” and “stupid” decision.

Meanwhile, some 2,000 people attended a protest rally against the blockade in Auckland’s domain on Saturday.

Health Director General Dr Ashley Bloomfield said that so far, there have been no positive cases that have emerged from the protests in Auckland. “Not yet, our hope is that there aren’t.”

Decreased compliance has been a growing concern in this Delta outbreak, and the government has blamed it for the increase in cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the North Shore party police were investigating was “clearly a violation of the rules.”

Ardern said he had not seen the footage from the North Shore party, but had described it to him. “That was enough,” he said.

Taranaki Māori still lags behind in vaccination statistics

Taranaki Māori vaccination rates have remained slow, with only 62 percent having received a first dose and only 38 percent fully inoculated.

By comparison, 80 percent of the eligible population in Taranaki have received a first dose and 57 percent are fully vaccinated.

When vaccination stocks were taken into account, those numbers increased to 82 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

The national rate of first-dose vaccinations is 85 percent, and 65 percent of people nationwide are now fully vaccinated.

Vaccination program leader Bevan Clayton-Smith said reaching the 80 percent mark for the general population was a significant milestone.

“These numbers are indicative of the tough mahi being carried out by vaccination teams throughout the program, and the Taranaki community’s response to the urgent need to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates on our neck.”

Clayton-Smith said the region needed to maintain momentum and was now focused on the goal of exceeding 90 percent vaccinated by the end of the year.

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