Vaccination roll out rapidly ramping up, 15 new community cases of Covid-19

There are 15 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today - and all have been linked to other cases in the outbreak.

The number of unlinked cases across the outbreak has fallen to 10. This is a key figure health officials look at when advising the Government on alert levels and restrictions.

All of today's new cases are in Auckland and are household contacts of five known households, with the majority linked to three households.

"These new cases were expected," director of general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.

There are 22 Covid cases in hospital and four of these people are in ICU.

Vaccine buses

The first rollout of portable vaccine buses will be rolled out in Auckland on Thursday - expanding the fleet from 6 to 12 in the coming weeks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

There is capacity for 220,000 vaccines to be administered in Auckland this week, Ardern said.

It's so important to get vaccinated as soon as possible, Ardern said. There are around 90,000 available spaces at Book My Vaccine this week, she said. More than 100 GPs and 30 pharmacies administering vaccines in Auckland.

Some park and ride vaccine centres can carry out more than 5,000 vaccines in a day, Ardern said.

A pop-up clinic at Auckland University began on Saturday at the Owen Glenn Building and has its last day today.

Ardern said they are working hard for disabled people to be vaccinated and the clinic at Papakura Marae is open all week. Bookings aren't required there.

Testing ramps up

It comes as testing in Auckland ramp up after level 4 restrictions were extended in the region another week to stamp out any remaining community cases.

Bloomfield said the priority was on testing as many people as possible from the Auckland suburbs of Massey, Favona, Papatoetoe, Otara and Manurewa, Bloomfield said.

Families with children are encouraged to get tested together.

Surveillance testing of essential workers continues across Auckland, including people in healthcare, emergency services, transport workers and supermarket workers.

More than 15,000 essential workers have been tested across Auckland - and none returned positive results.

Rather than random testing, testing is targeting specific suburbs where there could be other cases in the community, Bloomfield said.

Contact tracing efforts are focusing on 1242 contacts under "active management".

Number of contacts of active management is now a small number, Bloomfield said, after negative test results and exposure dates from more than 18 days ago.

A positive wastewater sample was taken from Pukekohe. Four people who were in quarantine had returned home, which is believed to be the reason. People in the area are still advised to get tested, Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said Counties Manukau DHB is safe and people should not hesitate to receive emergency care there. Patients who may have been exposed to the virus are kept separate from other patients, he said. Middlemore Hospital is testing a higher rate of patients out of caution, he said.

On Monday level 2 was also extended for the rest of the country until next Tuesday, with Ardern stating some level of restrictions were needed while there was an active outbreak in Auckland and travel, however limited, remained across the border.

Ardern told The AM Show this morning officials did not intend to continue to use the lockdowns system in the long-term fight against Covid.

She pointed out that New Zealand had fewer days where people had been given stay-at-home orders than most of the countries we compared ourselves to.

The key to stopping using lockdowns was to make sure everyone was vaccinated.

"We used them in the past because we didn't have that tool."

Despite saying we need as many people vaccinated as possible, Ardern would not put an exact figure on just how many people need to be vaccinated before lockdowns were no longer needed.

On Monday 33 new community cases were announced, taking the total active in the community to 569. Crucially there remained 17 unlinked or "mystery" cases from the past two weeks.

Speaking on TV1's Breakfast programme this morning, Ardern said those mystery cases do not have to be linked before Auckland comes out of level 4.

Health officials continue to try to figure out how a "handful" of Covid cases are linked to the current outbreak. All the other cases are now genomically linked, she said.

However, people in a number of key suburbs around Auckland are being urged to go and get a Covid test - even if you do not have symptoms.

The suburbs are: Mt Eden, Massey, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Papatoetoe and Manurewa.

Extra testing is required in those areas because of links to mystery cases or clusters that may have unexpected cases, officials said yesterday.

Anyone anywhere in the city who develops flu-like symptoms is urged to get a Covid test immediately. But people in those specific suburbs are encouraged to get a test even without symptoms so authorities can get a better picture of the current Covid situation.

Ardern told Breakfast if more suburbs needed surveillance testing, people would be notified this week.

Clusters will also be tightly managed to ensure contacts of cases were not causing other cases.

The Prime Minister reiterated the need for people to stay home to limit risk. One person should also be the sole person to go out shopping for each household. Ideally, that person will be vaccinated, she said.

She also called for people in the city to go and get vaccinated as early as today, if possible.

"If you're already booked but it's not until October, then rebook." Try to get it done this week, she said.

"Our plan is not to continue to use lockdowns," she told the programme.

There are 220,000 vaccination spots in Auckland this week, she said, and the Government wanted to use every one of them.

The country is in lockdown at the moment because not enough people are vaccinated to stop an outbreak, Ardern said. People were 30 times less likely to need to be hospitalised if they are vaccinated.

"Our goal is to continue to be world-leading both in our freedoms and looking after people's health and wellbeing."

She finished off by saying that New Zealand needed to be better than those countries sitting around the 70 per cent vaccination mark if we want to move away from using restrictions.

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