26 Sep 2021

Covid-19 wrap: 18 new cases, former PM criticises govt response

5:25 pm on 26 September 2021

There were 18 new community cases of Covid-19 today, while former Prime Minister Sir John Key returned to the spotlight to accuse the government of relying on fear tactics.

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Photo: RNZ

All but two of the 18 new community cases reported today were epidemiologically linked to previous cases, the Health Ministry said in an emailed statement.

That brings the community cases of Covid-19 to 1165 since the mid-August outbreak began.

The Ministry said more than 5 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had now been given out in New Zealand. A total of 82 percent of eligible Auckland residents have now had their first dose.

"We want to reiterate our thanks to frontline staff administering the vaccines, especially during the current community outbreak," the Ministry wrote in its statement. "Your hard work is helping to keep New Zealanders safe."

Health officials are finding new ways to reach out and support Pasifika and Māori families and raise vaccination rates, including extra help for those in isolation and using TikTok influencers to reach rangatahi.

Four locations of interest were also added to the Ministry of Health's Covid-19 contact tracing list this morning, all in Auckland. They include Mobil Glen Innes, Farro Epsom, Unichem Ōtara and Chemist Warehouse Manukau. Full details on times and dates can be found on the Ministry's list.

It was the first weekend of Level 3 in Auckland, and police generally reported compliance was good, although there were isolated cases of arrests like a farmer near the city's northern border spotted driving up his water race in a bid to dodge the checkpoint.

John Key

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

NZ can no longer be 'smug hermit kingdom' - Sir John Key

In a series of op-eds and interviews today, former Prime Minister John Key said that vaccination is the only way to return to normality where New Zealanders can travel overseas and return when they want to.

Expressing criticism of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government's approach, Sir John said incentives to encourage people to get the jab are the best way forward.

"You have to move to a series of carrots and sticks. I don't think fear is going to work.

"Rolling out Shaun Hendy and saying that 7000 people could die won't work.

"Fear works with the vaccinated in my opinion, it doesn't work with the unvaccinated."

Sir John wrote an editorial published in the Herald on Sunday and Sunday Star-Times and other newspapers and websites today, in which he called for a "coherent plan" to be shared with the public and said the government should "stop ruling by fear."

"The aim should no longer be to exist in a smug hermit kingdom," Sir John wrote.

In his editorial, Sir John criticised MIQ allotment requirements and said New Zealanders should be told when borders will open.

On TVNZ's Q+A programme Sunday morning, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins took issue with Sir John's comments.

"I really don't agree with him describing New Zealand as a smug hermit kingdom," Hipkins said.

"I think that's an insult to New Zealanders who have actually achieved some of the highest rates of freedom in the world by going hard and going early when we've needed to."

Central Auckland at midday on 27 August.

Photo: RNZ / Robert Smith

Lockdown supported, for now

A new poll showed general support for lockdowns to eliminate Covid-19, but has warning signs about the population's patience for future restrictions and concerns about mandatory vaccinations.

Research New Zealand's survey showed that 70 percents of kiwis say they support lockdowns. However, that changes when the vaccination rate reaches a high enough level.

Forty-seven percent said they would support them only until the vaccination target has been reached. The support also varied by region, Research NZ managing director Emanuel Kalafatelis said.

Read the full Research NZ survey here (PDF)

"If you compare Auckland to the rest of the country there's a lower level of support for a continuation of lockdown. In Auckland it's 66 percent, in comparison to Wellington where it's 79 percent for example."

As to mandatory vaccinations, results varied widely depending on who was being talked about. When it comes to health and quarantine frontline workers, 85 percent said they should be required.

But when asked if businesses should be able to require vaccination for employees, numbers supporting that dropped considerably to just 57 percent.

Australia has seen violent protests recently over lockdown restrictions, but Kalafatelis said he hopes New Zealanders wouldn't behave that way.

"I would just hope that New Zealanders are a little more reasonable and controlled in terms of their emotions and reactions."

In Australia, there were another 961 cases in New South Wales and 779 in Victoria to report, and a total of 11 deaths.

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