17 Nov 2021

Covid-19 wrap for 17 November: Auckland on path to reopening, vaccine pass launched

8:54 pm on 17 November 2021

Schools have reopened for younger students, the Auckland boundary is set to reopen mid-December for a month, and a Covid-19 vaccine pass has come into play.

Here's a wrap of today's events.

Covid-19 wrap for 17 November 2021

Photo: RNZ, Health Ministry

The whole country will move to the traffic light system soon after 29 November, with Auckland and regions with lower vaccination rates going into the highest setting - 'red'. Everywhere else will move to 'orange' at the same time.

Auckland's border will reopen on 15 December for fully-vaccinated travellers or those who test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of departure.

The new rules will apply until 17 January.

Police will be making spot-checks and fining rule-breakers $1000.

Proof of vaccination or testing will also be required on Interislander ferries and on flights.

But experts say it is "inevitable" Covid-19 cases will crop up around the country once Auckland's border opens, and the greatest impact will be on communities with the least resources.

My Vaccine Pass

From today, anyone who is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to request a vaccination pass, dubbed My Vaccine Pass.

Once New Zealand enters the new traffic light system, the pass will be required to enter hospitality venues, and access community, sport and faith-based gatherings.

Dr Andrew Chen, a Research Fellow with Koi Tu: The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland explained to Nine to Noon the Ministry of Health decided that a vaccine pass would suffice for domestic use, and the vaccine certificate could be used overseas. Both can be obtained from the ministry.

He said the pass would expire every six months.

Schools reopen

Thousands of young children in Auckland returned to school today, for the first time in three months.

Pupils in Years 1 to 10 have been welcomed back.

Schools opening in alert level 3 must keep children in separate, stable groups that do not mingle and use physical distancing where they can, and children in Year 4 and above must wear masks.

It is up to each school to decide - within these guidelines - the best way to keep children and staff safe.

It means many schools will have to roster students home on some days or split them into morning and afternoon groups.

School breakfast and lunch programmes have also resumed, which is a welcome relief for parents who have stretched their budgets to put food on the table over lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Early Childhood Council is still waiting to gauge the impact of the vaccine mandate on members as children head back to centres this week.

In a survey carried out on Monday, 31 percent of members who responded expected to lose one or two teachers and another 10 percent said they would lose between three and five.

Māori Party opposes vaccine mandates

The Māori Party is calling to resource Māori to lead their own Covid-19 response, establish an independent statutory Māori Pandemic Response Group and abolish government mandates.

Today Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer launched their Covid-19 Pandemic Response Policy.

Waititi said the party was fundamentally opposed to mandates because they were a direct attack on constitutional rights under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Ngarewa-Packer said the government failed to provide equity for Māori in accessing information, resources and vaccinations. She said it had actively blocked efforts to protect our communities.

The numbers

There are 194 new community cases of Covid-19 today: 180 in Auckland, five in Waikato, three in Northland, six in Taupō and one in Tūrangi.

One of the Taupō cases will be included in tomorrow's case numbers.

There has also been a case detected in Christchurch, which will be added to tomorrow's numbers.

Further tests on wastewater samples collected in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui on 15 November have detected more traces of the coronavirus, after positive detections from samples collected on 10 and 11 November.

There are 88 people in hospital, including seven in ICU - 47 of those are either unvaccinated or not eligible.

Covid-19 deaths

A man in his 60s has become the third person in a week to die in hospital with Covid-19, while four other deaths in isolation over the past fortnight are still being investigated.

The Health Ministry said the man tested positive after being admitted to North Shore Hospital with Covid-19 symptoms two weeks ago. He died yesterday.

This follows another death of a person in their late 70s at Auckland City Hospital reported yesterday, and that of a woman in her 90s on Saturday in North Shore Hospital.

Three other men with Covid-19 aged between 60 and 70 have died in the last two weeks, one in a managed isolation facility and three isolating at home in Auckland.

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