Chris Hipkins reveals Covid plan for school students, 60 new cases in the community today

The number of new Covid-19 cases dropped to 60 today but director general of health Ashley Bloomfield warns that infections are likely to keep rising.

Fifty-six of the new cases are in Auckland and four are in Waikato.

Twenty-two cases remain unlinked to the outbreak and 43 people are in hospital with Covid.

A total of 89 per cent of Aucklanders have now had one vaccine dose.

The Ministry of Health said there has been an increase in cases on Auckland's North Shore and New Lynn.

Bloomfield highlighted the North Shore suburbs of Bayswater, Rosedale and Redvale - the suburb where the infamous influencer party took place.

New Lynn's Shadbolt Park has been taken down from the Ministry of Health's locations of interest list. It is an exposure event with a small number of contacts who have all been contacted and are isolating.

No one else is being sought in relation to that event, Bloomfield said.

People with mild symptoms in New Lynn and North Shore are being told to get a test as soon as possible and isolate until the result.

Bloomfield said it's to make sure there aren't undetected cases in those areas. Additional testing from tomorrow.

Of the four new cases in Waikato - two are household contacts already in quarantine and the other two are closely linked.

A third dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be available for immunocompromised people - with more details on the Ministry of Health website this afternoon. People cannot book the third vaccine on Book My Vaccine.

Bloomfield said criteria for people eligible for a third vaccine is narrow - people who fulfill it will be reached out to by their clinician and it will be available on prescription.

Today, the Government launched a new campaign called "Two Shots For Summer" targetting 16 to 19-year-olds to encourage full vaccinations by December.

Bloomfield said incidents of 'diluted doses' are picked up immediately, and all those affected were followed up and given advise. Another incident in Wellington included vaccines that were past their 30-day period. Those people told to get a further vaccine.

Bloomfield said it affected a small number of people, and the fact that these incidents were found, reflect quality assurances in place.

Covid-19 Response Minister Hipkins said two absconders scaled fences at MIQ, were spotted doing that, were out less than 5 minutes and watched the entire time they were out

The third case was collecting belongings to care for a pet, after 10 minutes they did not return, and were escorted.

School's in

Hipkins, who is also the Education Minister, said he is "acutely" aware Covid's impact had on students. He said stresses are more evident by the day.

Students in years 11, 12 and 13 will return to the classroom from Tues 26 October in alert level 3 areas, to complete NCEA exams and assessments.

They will be required to wear masks. Staff will need a negative test before returning.

Those more at risk of Covid should stay home. Face coverings on school transport will be mandatory.

Exams will proceed in alert level 3 areas. Auckland students eligible for "unexpected event" grade.

Students in Auckland, Waikato and Northland who cannot attend exams will receive the "unexpected event" grade, based on their school work earlier in the year.

Further decisions on schooling for Years 1 - 10 and early childhood announced next Tuesday. Education outside in warmer months is possible, Hipkins said.

Hipkins said it is safe for senior students to go back to school.

He said it isn't much different from a large workplace, in terms of the level of risk.

Hipkins said they want to minimise students on site while vaccination rates need to increase, and there are logistically challenges for the school, such as teachers who have children aged under 12 who cannot go back to school.

He said secondary students need to prepare for exams and that's why they have been prioritised to go back to school earlier.

Tamaki charged over lockdown protest

It comes as four people face charges over lockdown protests held in the upper North Island on October 16.

One of the four is Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki who attended an event in Auckland Domain and has spoken to police yesterday and again today.

Tamaki, 63, has now been charged with failing to comply with an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act and Alert Level 3 Order - and will also appear before the court for breaching bail conditions.

Tamaki has been taken into custody and is due to appear in court today via audio visual link.

Tamaki's charges follow his boast on social media yesterday that he would not be charged over the latest lockdown protest.

Meanwhile two Waikato men have been summoned to appear in the Hamilton District Court in relation to a mass gathering at Claudelands Park on October 16.

A 46-year-old man has been charged with failing to comply and is due to appear on November 17.

A 56-year-old man has been charged with organising a mass gathering and failing to comply and is due to appear on November 16.

In Northland District, a 47-year-old man has been summoned to appear in the Whangārei District Court on 25 October in relation to organising a mass gathering at Mander Park.
The Northland region was under alert level 3 when this gathering took place.

Hipkins is also expected to set out when schools can re-open, and under what restrictions. He has earlier signalled that senior students are likely be the first to return.

Earlier today, Hipkins warned that yesterday's record number of 94 new cases was not likely to go down any time soon – he said on Newstalk ZB he expected the cases to be nearer the 100 mark today.

However, he said the Government was still not giving consideration to a snap-lockdown at level 4 – an option put up by some health experts but which was rejected by Cabinet because of concerns about compliance.

Hipkins will also face questions about the three Covid-19 positive people who escaped from quarantine at the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport last night, including one who disappeared while collecting personal belongings from their home and is yet to be found.

Health officials are trying to trace the movements of those three people.

Today, Health Minister Andrew Little also announced that 300 places a month will be reserved in MIQ for bringing health workers into the country from November.

"Our world-class workforce is vital in rebuilding the health system and dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic," Little said.

"Whether it's bringing doctors or nurses in from other places or New Zealanders bringing their skills home, we need to be able to get them into the country and into the workforce."

At the moment, health and disability workers are eligible under a wider quota of rooms for time-sensitive travel but Little said employers had told him it was now difficult to secure those rooms.

"They are competing with others who are also in this category, and that's making it harder for our health services to get some of the people they need.

"Health managers need to be able to bring the people they need into the country and know that they can get them places in MIQ."

The Ministry of Health would work with District Health Boards and Primary Health Organisations to allocate them to the people needed most urgently.

The plan for how MIQ will operate in the future is not expected until next week, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlines the so-called traffic lights system on Friday.

The Prime Minister is also expected to outline what vaccination target will trigger that new system, which will set out how future outbreaks are handled and is likely to include measures such as vaccination certificates.

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