Auckland to stay at Alert Level 3 for next 12 days, rest of NZ to stay at Alert Level 2

Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

New Zealand will maintain its current lockdown settings for 12 more days.

That would mean the current settings will be in place for 14 days - or one full incubation period.

The current settings will remain until 11.59pm on August 26, but Cabinet will review the settings on August 21, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced.

"There is nothing to suggest we need to move to a level 4 lockdown at this stage."

Auckland shouldn't be at level 3 for any longer than necessary.

"Short and sharp is best.

"But it is wise to take a bit of extra time."

Moving Tokoroa, which has positive cases, into level 3 wasn't necessary because those cases were linked to the Auckland cluster and were isolated.

Ardern said it had been 53 hours since Auckland was in level 3, while the rest of NZ was in level 2.

She said the aim was to restore level 1 freedoms as quickly as possible.

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Lifting restrictions now and seeing an explosion of cases later would be devastating for Auckland, and though level 3 was easier on the economy than full lockdown, she acknowledged that it would be hard on Auckland.

Ardern wouldn't be drawn on the impact of extending the alert level settings on the election date.

She added that the Electoral Commission had done planning around an election if New Zealand was at level 2.

She said reviewing settings on August 21 meant that it was possible, depending on what mass testing showed, to ease alert level settings before midnight on August 26.

At this stage she did not think the current settings would be needed beyond August 26.

Ardern said the wage subsidy would be extended to protect jobs.

The details will be finalised, but it will be nationwide and will cover the period of time that level 3 restrictions are in place.

She said Auckland Transport had 44 construction sites operating, while five sites and 1200 workers continued on the City Rail Link.

"Houses continue to be built in Auckland."

All of this is happening because of the protocols of operating safely at level 3, including social distancing at worksites, she said.

There are 29 cases linked to the cluster in Auckland, and one more case likely linked to the cluster, she said.

The 1.5 million people in Auckland were "carrying a heavy load" for the rest of the country, she said.

"If you're in Auckland, please stay at home in your bubble. Wear a face covering whenever you leave your home."

"Download and use the app and make sure you can quickly access your movements in the last 14 days in case you are contacted by contact-tracers."

"If you're unwell, get a test."

More than 30,000 tests have taken place, and 38 people are in quarantine as a precuation.

She said the outbreak had been detected "relatively early".

The earliest case in the cluster was a worker at the Americold Coolstore in Mt Wellington who became sick on July 31.

This person may not be the earliest case, and the source of the chain of transmission has not been discovered.

She said the genome sequencing of the current outbreak is not the same as any other previous transmission, which suggests it is a new strain in New Zealand.

Ardern said the source of the infection was not "a burning ember" from a previous chain of transmission, given that the genome sequencing of this strain appears to be new.

She said again that the cluster will continue to grow, and it may be linked to more social gatherings, churches and schools.

"It is possible to contain a cluster or outbreak without having to identify its origin."

Ardern said the extra time to test meant that it wasn't necessary to find the source of infection, and previous clusters have been closed without finding the source.

Finding the source would still be preferable, she said, and efforts would continue to try and find it.

Ardern said moving all of the North Island to level 3 was unnecessary because all of the cases were connected, and all confirmed cases were in isolation.

But Auckland wasn't moved to level 2, given the churches and schools that positive cases had attended.

In Auckland, there has been a 60 per cent reduction of travel compared with previous weeks.

Ardern and her colleagues have been locked in a Cabinet meeting since 3pm, poring over Covid-19 data in order to come to a decision.

Ardern has been joined by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield at this evening's briefing.

Bloomfield said his advice was to continue the settings for 12 more days, but it was more important to have more time to see the extent of the outbreak.

"There may well still be the odd case and the odd new case in 12 days' time," he said, and the strength of the system was such that it could contact-trace and isolate cases quickly.

Bloomfield said the positive case in the Auckland Hospital was likely connected to the Americold workplace, though it hadn't been confirmed yet.

Bloomfield added 83 per cent of close contacts had been isolated within 48 hours, which was above the gold-standard of 80 per cent.

The latest figures

An important piece of the puzzle will be today's new Covid-19 numbers.

Ardern said on Tuesday night the Auckland lockdown would last until midnight tonight unless it was decided it needed to be extended.

This was after the discovery of four new cases of community transmission – all from the same family – in Auckland.

The rest of New Zealand was moved into level 2.

There are 30 active cases connected to the recent outbreak. Two new confirmed cases are in Tokoroa, the rest in Auckland.

Members of the cluster have travelled to Rotorua, Taupo and Morrinsville.

Bloomfield said today there were 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the community – 12 confirmed and one probable.

All the cases announced today were "clearly linked" to the existing Auckland cluster.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said this was "good news".

Thirty-eight people linked to the cluster have moved into quarantine facilities.

An important piece of the puzzle will be today's new Covid-19 numbers.

Ardern said on Tuesday night the Auckland lockdown would last until midnight tonight unless it was decided it needed to be extended.

This was after the discovery of four new cases of community transmission – all from the same family – in Auckland.

The rest of New Zealand was moved into level 2.

There are 30 active cases connected to the recent outbreak. Two new confirmed cases are in Tokoroa, the rest in Auckland.

Members of the cluster have travelled to Rotorua, Taupo and Morrinsville.

Bloomfield said today there were 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the community – 12 confirmed and one probable.

All the cases announced today were "clearly linked" to the existing Auckland cluster.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said this was "good news".

Thirty-eight people linked to the cluster have moved into quarantine facilities.

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.