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There are 19 new cases of Covid-19 today, all in Auckland.
Of today's cases, only one is yet to be linked to another case, with nine unlinked cases over the past 14 days, director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay has confirmed.
Many clusters are now contained, any new cases are among known contacts isolating, or dormant.
There are five active sub-clusters.
It is this work that continues to give us a level of reassurance we are finding the spread of the outbreak, McElnay said.
Delta's infectiousness underpins the daily case numbers, she said. Of notified cases, there could be additional 35 cases in coming days among household contacts, so fluctuation in daily cases is expected, McElnay said.
There are 23 cases in hospital, with four patients in ICU.
"We are finding and reducing the spread of the Auckland outbreak," McElnay said.
McElnay and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson are fronting today's update, after 19 new cases were also revealed on Thursday - and two overnight at Middlemore Hospital.
The patient who self-discharged after testing positive at Middlemore is being moved into quarantine today, McElnay said.
A further six patients have now been discharged.
Hospitals the 'solution, not the problem'
McElnay said the Covid-positive patients at Middlemore are not unusual, because there are many sub-clusters in south Auckland.
She said Middlemore can plan for their arrival, and clinical staff are "doing an excellent job".
Auckland hospitals are used to dealing with Covid patients, she said.
The MIQ worker mentioned yesterday is now in a quarantine facility, and the source of their infection is still unknown with genome sequencing to come.
There were more than 11,000 tests across Auckland in the past 24 hours, and 19,000 were processed nationwide. Of these, 360 swabs were taken in Henderson and 292 in Papakura. A total of 1152 swabs were taken across seven suburbs of interest yesterday.
There have been reports of physical violence and abuse against essential workers, McElnay said. "I'm asking New Zealanders to please be kind and treat our essential workers with courtesy and respect," she said.
Robertson said it's encouraging that there is only one unlinked case, adding it was important to note that case numbers have been stable and represent expected cases of household and other contacts.
He urged Aucklanders to get tested this weekend.
Robertson said Middlemore is the hospital that services communities where the outbreak is, some are arriving at ED completely unaware they have the virus. Also, some cases arrive quite unwell and had to be admitted. There will be some where testing doesn't occur, Robertson said, but it's not a problem at the hospitals, they are the solution.
Latest round of wage subsidy
Robertson said the fourth round of wage subsidy scheme opened for applications at 9am, for the Sept 28 - Oct 11 revenue round, with 652,103 applications for border wage subsidy approved since the outbreak started and $4.2bn of economic support paid out since.
The air connectivity scheme is extended until March next year to help with peak summer cargo season, Robertson said. The scheme enabled 8800 flights with air freight since last year with 85,000 people returning to New Zealand on those flights, representing 45 per cent of people passing through MIQ.
Today's briefing comes after the Herald revealed that a resident living at the The Grange development in Albany has tested positive for Covid.
The daily number was a drop from 45 the day before, but still a vast increase from the days prior and experts say the Middlemore cases will make any move to level 2 in coming days "very risky".
The two people tested positive at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland's south on Wednesday night, with 66 patients now deemed close contacts of the pair.
One of the patients then decided to self-discharge from the hospital after learning of their positive test.
When asked how many people, in total, had turned up to the hospital's emergency department for unrelated health conditions and then tested positive for Covid, Middlemore Hospital chief medical officer, Pete Watson, didn't give a figure.
However, he said: "There's a steady stream."
The two people from Wednesday arrived at the emergency department separately - and did not know each other nor were they connected in any way.
They were among six Covid-positive people arriving at the hospital that day.
The other four people already knew they had tested positive for the virus and were arriving for planned treatment, Watson said.
Middlemore currently has nine Covid patients admitted.
Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank, meanwhile, told TVNZ's Breakfast show that there are "concerning signs" it is going to be difficult to keep this current Delta outbreak under control in alert level 3.
"There are worrying signs when you have cases popping up out of the blue and coming into hospital and then testing positive - that it is going to be difficult to contain the outbreak going forward," he said.
In terms of Auckland moving to alert level 2, Plank said doing so in the current situation - with cases still showing up in the community - could lead to more hospitalisation and ultimately more deaths.
Having cases show up in places and suburbs where you're not looking for them was worrying, Plank said.
"It could lead to cases growing very rapidly if we moved to level 2," he said.
"I think it would be extremely risky to move to level 2 at the current time.
"It is a dangerous time."
Meanwhile, leading microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles has urged Kiwis to get vaccinated, warning that New Zealand could see "high levels of hospitalisations and deaths around Christmas-time" should the country's case numbers follow the trends in Australia.
Wiles shared a graph by chief science advisor Dame Juliet Gerrard comparing New Zealand's Delta outbreak to those in New South Wales and Victoria.
For more information visit covid19.govt.nz.
This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.