Ashley Bloomfield reveals 9 new Covid-19 cases in NZ, Alert Level update coming at 3pm

Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

There are nine new Covid-19 cases in NZ today - eight of them linked to the Auckland cluster.

The other case is in MIQ in Auckland.

Eight of the cases are confirmed and one is probable, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield says.

Bloomfield is revealing the last piece of the puzzle as Cabinet meets this afternoon to decide whether to shift alert levels.

He said "look for some more announcements from the Prime Minister" after being asked about masks at alert level 1 but Bloomfield said he couldn't comment on the advice he'd provided to Cabinet.

There are 10 people in hospital, including two in intensive care at Middlemore. Three people are in Auckland City Hospital, four people in Middlemore, two people in North Shore Hospital and one person in Waikato Hospital.

The new person in Auckland City Hospital is linked to the community cluster and was transferred from the quarantine facility late on Sunday.

Hospitals in Auckland continue to manage COVID-19 patients using appropriate infection prevention and control protocols ensuring hospitals remain safe for patients, visitors and staff.

One of today's eight cases in the community had contact with a confirmed case on a bus.

Bloomfield said the exposure on the bus trip happened about 10 days ago so there may be additional cases coming through and the idea was proactively to contact people.

The important thing is this is happening at alert level 3 in Auckland so people aren't travelling as much, said Bloomfield.

Four are household contacts of confirmed cases. One has had contact with a confirmed case at a church. Two are workplace contacts – one of these is the probable case.

Details from the Ministry of Health show two of today's cases are children under the age of nine.

The Auckland cluster is now the largest in NZ's Covid-19 history, Bloomfield said.

One of the cases under investigation will be genome sequenced today as an epidemiological link couldn't be found.

Another case is a person whose brother went to Hobbiton so is being followed up, but there is an indication it could be an old case as they arrived in the country in June.

Bloomfield said they could have been infected prior to coming to New Zealand.

Bloomfield said it was encouraging the "vast majority" of the cases could be linked to close contacts.

"What we're looking for is ideally not seeing cases popping up that we haven't already identified through our contact tracing."

Testing latest

Bloomfield was asked about a family waiting nine days for a test result and he said that was "too long", but it would "almost certainly" be a negative result as positive results are notified immediately.

Bloomfield said everyone in isolation who'd initially been tested are now again tested at day 12.

There are 1332 confirmed Covid-19 cases in NZ. There are 123 active cases - 19 of these are in MIQ.

There are 2300 close contacts of the cases in the community - 2249 of whom have been contacted.

One hundred and fifty-one people who are connected to the cluster have moved into MIQ.

There were 4589 tests processed yesterday. Bloomfield said the lower number reflected the fact it was a Sunday.

About 100,000 tests have been processed in the last seven days and 1.77 million people have now downloaded the Covid Tracer app - about 43 per cent of population aged over 15.

There are over a million poster scans a day.

Last piece of the puzzle

Bloomfield is revealing the last piece of the puzzle as Cabinet decides whether to shift alert levels.

The latest case numbers - and whether they can be traced to the cluster - are some of the factors ministers will consider.

Bloomfield will give his recommendation to Cabinet based on the latest testing results.

Before deciding whether to move Auckland out of alert level 3 and the rest of the country out of alert level 2, ministers will also weigh-up:

• the types of cases,

• the strength of contact-tracing and border controls,

• the health system's capacity,

• effects on the economy and the level of public compliance.

Yesterday, there were 114 active cases, with 19 in managed isolation and quarantine. Of the nine people in hospital, six people are stable and three are in ICU in Middlemore.

Three cases were still under investigation, including the Rydges maintenance worker, so the total number of cases in the community is 96.

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker yesterday said a lockdown extension would ensure a downward trend in cases was sustained.

Baker said while the three cases still being investigated weren't necessarily a red flag as they may still be linked to other cases, it would be more reassuring to have a longer period of few cases because test results are generally an indication of the presence of Covid-19 from a week ago.

"If we saw noughts and ones in the next few days between now and Wednesday, you could consider dropping down a level, but that may be still a bit too soon."

The falling number of new community cases - nine on Friday, six on Saturday and one yesterday - was "good news", according to Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy.

But he said his team's modelling showed that level 3 should be extended in Auckland "to be really sure".

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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.