Ashley Bloomfield reveals 11 new Covid-19 cases in NZ, Alert Level decision coming Monday

Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

There will be no early lockdown lift for Auckland and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Cabinet would meet on Monday to decide the alert levels for both the city and the rest of New Zealand.

She said the current settings would remain for now and Cabinet would consider whether they needed to change on Monday.

Alert level 3 had played a critical role in finding the outbreak's perimeter, she added, and cases had been found early, she said.

"There are however a small handful of cases where symptoms rather than contact tracers have caused someone to get a test."

Those cases were slightly more problematic, but that didn't mean New Zealand wasn't on top of the current outbreak.

She said people mingling in social areas could have seen the outbreak explode, and Auckland's lockdown-lite compliance had made a difference.

"There is nothing to suggest we need to change our course and certainly nothing to suggest we need to elevate alert settings."

"We have completed 170,515 tests since our current alert settings began."

Contact-tracing was meeting the standard of contacting 80 per cent of close contacts within 48 hours, she said.

"New Zealand is among a small number of countries that still has a low rate of Covid cases," said Ardern - making a comparison with the United States.

It may have been a subtle reply to US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly claimed New Zealand's Covid outbreak was out of control.

11 new cases today

Today, Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield revealed there were 11 new Covid-19 cases.

Nine new cases are in the community and two in managed isolation.

Five of the nine in the community are linked to churches in South Auckland. Tracing and testing of close contacts are in progress.

Eighty-eight of the 89 Covid cases in the community are part of the current cluster and one is still under investigation.

St Lukes worker may have caught Covid on bus

The St Lukes worker may have been on the same bus as another positive case, Bloomfield said, which underlined the importance of wearing a mask on public transport.

The St Lukes mall case has been linked to the existing cluster through genomic sequencing.

There are eight people receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19 - two in Auckland City Hospital, one in North Shore and five in Middlemore.

One person at Middlemore remains in ICU.

One person in Waikato was hospitalised but not related to Covid-19.

There are 143 people linked to the cluster who have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility. This includes 70 people who have tested positive.

There are now 1315 confirmed cases, and 105 active cases.

The two imported cases have been transferred to the Jet Park Hotel.

There were 15,714 tests conducted yesterday.

Bloomfield said the testing of border-facing workers had almost been completed, and a second round would be held. They would be regularly tested going forward, he added.

Ardern thanked the efforts of New Zealanders but especially Aucklanders and those who had been tested.

"We would not have got in front of this cluster without them."

"There is no room for division when it comes to fighting Covid," Ardern said.

"We have made good progress. Unlike our first outbreak we are not dealing with multiple clusters."

Alert level 3 had played a critical role in finding the outbreak's perimeter, she added, and cases had been found early.

Auckland is scheduled to be in alert level 3 and the rest of the country in level 2 until 11.59pm, August 26.

Cabinet met today at 10am to review the current settings.

Ardern has previously said the review would allow some wriggle room to ease the restrictions ahead of schedule if there were good signs, but that is now unlikely given the uncertainty about the St Luke's case.

Yesterday there were five new cases from about 18,000 test results.

There were 80 cases in the outbreak so far; 78 cases in the South Auckland cluster, the Rydges case and the St Luke's case.

There had been 154,000 tests since the outbreak, two-thirds of which were in Auckland.

Almost all of the 2000-odd close contacts - who may still be incubating the virus - have been reached and are isolating.

The cluster is now considered to have started from person-to-person infection following the results of the Americold surface swabs.

The Rydges maintenance worker may have caught Covid-19 after touching the same elevator button minutes after an infected traveller was in the lift.

Auckland went into level 3 lockdown and the rest of New Zealand fell into level 2 at 12pm on Wednesday last week.

A higher, level 4 lockdown has been ruled out on the basis of the relatively few cases so far.

For more information visit covid19.govt.nz.

Rules for Alert Levels:

Alert Level 4 — Lockdown

Likely that the disease is not contained and community transmission is occurring.

• Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally

• People instructed to stay at home in their bubble other than for essential personal movement.

• Safe recreational activity is allowed in the local area.

• Travel is severely limited.

• All gatherings cancelled and all public venues closed.

• Businesses closed except for essential services, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics, petrol stations and lifeline utilities.

• Educational facilities closed.

• Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities possible.

• Reprioritisation of healthcare services.

Alert Level 3 — Restrict

Community transmission might be happening.

• Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally.

• People instructed to stay home in their bubble other than for essential personal movement — including to go to work, school if they have to or for local recreation.

• Physical distancing of 2 metres outside home including on public transport, or 1 metre in controlled environments like schools and workplaces.

• Bubbles must stay within their immediate household bubble but can expand this to reconnect with close family/whānau, or bring in caregivers or support isolated people. This extended bubble should remain exclusive.

• Schools between years 1 to 10 and Early Childhood Education centres can safely open but will have limited capacity. Children should learn at home if possible.

• People must work from home unless that is not possible.

• Businesses can open premises, but cannot physically interact with customers.

• Low-risk local recreation activities are allowed.

• Public venues are closed. This includes libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, markets.

• Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures must be maintained.

• Healthcare services use virtual, non-contact consultations where possible.

• Inter-regional travel is highly limited to, for example, essential workers, with limited exemptions for others.

• People at high risk of severe illness such as older people and those with existing medical conditions are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home. They may choose to work.

Alert Level 2 — Reduce

The disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains. Risk assessment. Household transmission could be occurring. Single or isolated cluster outbreaks.

• People can reconnect with friends and family, and socialise in groups of up to 100, go shopping or travel domestically if following public health guidance.

• Keep physical distancing of 2 metres from people you don't know when out in public or in retail stores. Keep 1 metre physical distancing in controlled environments like workplaces, where practical.

• No more than 100 people at gatherings, including weddings, birthdays, funerals and tangihanga.

• Businesses can open to the public if following public health guidance including physical distancing and record keeping. Alternative ways of working are encouraged where possible.

• Hospitality businesses must keep groups of customers separated, seated and served by a single person.

• Maximum of 100 people at a time in a defined space.

• Sport and recreation activities are allowed, subject to conditions on gatherings, record keeping, and physical distancing where practical.

• Public venues such as museums, libraries and pools can open if they comply with public health measures and ensure 1 metre physical distancing and record keeping.

• Event facilities, including cinemas, stadiums, concert venues and casinos can have more than 100 people at a time, provided there are no more than 100 in a defined space, and the groups do not mix.

• Health and disability care services operate as normally as possible.

• It is safe to send your children to schools, early learning services and tertiary education. There will be appropriate measures in place.

• People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, for example those with underlying medical conditions, especially if not well-controlled, and older people, are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home. They may work if they agree with their employer that they can do so safely.

Alert Level 1 — Prepare

The disease is contained in New Zealand. COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.

• Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand.

• Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally

• Border entry measures to minimise risk of importing COVID-19 cases.

• Intensive testing for COVID-19.

• Rapid contact tracing of any positive case.

• Self-isolation and quarantine required.

• Schools and workplaces open, and must operate safely.

• No restrictions on personal movement but people are encouraged to maintain a record of where they have been.

• No restrictions on gatherings but organisers encouraged to maintain records to enable contact tracing.

• Stay home if you're sick, report flu-like symptoms.

• Wash and dry your hands, cough into your elbow, don't touch your face.

• No restrictions on domestic transport — avoid public transport or travel if you're sick.

• No restrictions on workplaces or services but they are encouraged to maintain records to enable contact tracing.

 This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.