Auckland travel rule to relax from tonight, 8 new cases in the community of Covid-19

There are eight Covid cases in the community today, including a person who presented at Waitakere Hospital.

There is one unlinked case today - the person who presented at the hospital. Five staff members have been stood down.

Eight patients are being treated as contacts.

The ED was able to remain open while ambulances diverted to North Shore.

A positive wastewater test result was recorded in Tauranga on September 23. Further samples taken from wider nearby area and results expected on Thursday, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.

Testing centres in the region will be open for extended hours today, and more pop-up clinics open tomorrow.

A request has been made for permitted workers over the next two weeks, regardless of symptoms, to get two tests at least five days apart - especially in the construction, hospitality and retail sectors.

Auckland travel rules relaxed from tonight

People can delay moving house, starting a new job or tertiary education for so long, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

From 11.59pm tonight the rules around leaving Auckland will be relaxed.

People will be able to travel from Auckland into a level 2 environment if they are relocating permanently, if they have shared caregiving arrangements and if they are returning from alert level 3 to an alert level 2 environment. People need a test 72 hours before departure.

Those with shared caregivers need a test within seven days of each crossing of the Auckland border. People need to carry proof of reason to travel and must not be sick.

Any workers travelling from Auckland to Tauranga should check they are up to date with testing.

More than 50,000 essential workers have been tested.

Yesterday there were 12 new cases, all in Auckland, with all but two of them epidemiologically linked.

In the past fortnight, there were seven unlinked cases.

Bloomfield said yesterday that the seven-day rolling average of Covid cases was now 15, compared with 17 last week and 19 the week before.

"We are making progress. Many of our clusters are now considered to be contained, or clusters are dormant," he said.

Auckland will be at level 3 for another week - until the end of Tuesday next week - with Cabinet meeting on Monday to review alert level settings for the whole country.

Daily case numbers tend to reflect what's happening in the community seven to 10 days ago, so the numbers today and for the rest of the week might indicate the impact of moving from level 4 to level 3.

'We are on a knife-edge at the moment'

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said it was clear the virus was continuing to transmit among specific groups and there needed to be a much more targeted approach to stamping out the virus quickly.

"We are on a knife-edge at the moment."

Without a targeted approach, Baker said, Auckland could be hovering between level 2 and level 3 for some time.

Yesterday Ardern said 150 fully vaccinated travellers, starting from the end of October, will be involved in a pilot to isolate at home following an overseas trip.

It would be coupled with a testing and monitoring regime, and travellers wouldn't be able to leave their homes, or have anyone else there unless they too had travelled as part of the same party.

This morning Act Party leader David Seymour called for an end to regional lockdowns, and for vaccinated Kiwis overseas to be able to come home by Christmas.

The party released its Covid 3.0 strategy this morning, which would take the focus away from zero cases and move towards harm minimisation.

This meant doing away with lockdowns as a whole and moving "from isolating whole cities to isolating only those who it makes sense to isolate".

To enable this there also needed to be a move away from "chronic fear and uncertainty" towards freedom; a shift away from government-knows-best towards openness and involving business; and an overall strategic shift away from public health to wellbeing.

The National Party is releasing its Covid-19 strategy tomorrow, but party leader Judith Collins said this morning that it would also allow fully vaccinated Kiwis to come home by Christmas.

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