29 Apr 2020

Ashley Bloomfield: Activity increase at 'expected levels'

8:34 am on 29 April 2020

The increase of New Zealanders congregating at level 3 appears to be at expected levels, not worrying levels, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

Queue for bubble tea in Newmarket store Gongcha, Auckland on day one of alert level 3, on 28 April

A queue for bubble tea in Newmarket store Gongcha, Auckland on 28 April. Photo: RNZ / Kymberlee Fernandes

The World Health Organisation has labelled New Zealand's response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic as world-leading, but also warned against complacency.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday also warned New Zealanders would need to be more vigilant under the loosened restrictions.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP

The move to alert level 3 meant another 400,000 people returned to work yesterday, with long queues for takeaways and much more traffic on the roads.

The demand for takeaway food has been unusually strong, and one of the country's biggest pizza chains, Hell Pizza, said it triggered one of their busiest days ever.

Wellington man Ropata Maxwell said he had noticed much more traffic on the south coast on his daily walk.

He suspected people were using level 3 as an excuse to get out when they should not.

"Just those using their cars because it's level 3 and I'm like 'level 3 is still very similar to level 4 guys'. I mean, come on, we've done well and even I've got cabin fever, you know, but we've got to stick with it."

Dr Bloomfield told RNZ's Morning Report he thought the increase in people out and about was in line with expectations.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 28: Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on April 28, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: Pool / Getty Images

"There were definitely more people out yesterday and in fact I noticed more traffic this morning so things are gearing up a bit. Maybe that was a few of the kids heading off to school ... although perhaps a bit early for that," he said.

"I don't think at worrying levels, I would have thought they were at expected levels."

He said people's behaviour was more of a concern simply the number that were out and about.

"One of the things yesterday was a much lower number of complaints to police ... about people who were out and about.

"I've been really impressed by what I've seen, I was certainly pretty early putting my order in for a coffee at Mojo.

"Tempting to have a chat to people. Please do, but keep that physical distance."

Dr Bloomfield elaborated on his statement that New Zealand was "well on our way" to having the contact tracing capability indicated by Dr Ayesha Verrall's audit as "critical" to the Covid-19 response.

"We're there with the key ones, and the key ones are turnaround time for laboratory testing ... and contacting 80 percent of close contacts within three days," he said.

He said New Zealand was now achieving the testing time requirement, and data had showed the one for average contact tracing speed was already being outperformed, with 80 percent of close contacts reached within just two days.

"The other things we will start to monitor as the system builds ... some of them weren't the mission critical ones."

He said he had consulted with others on the recommendations of the audit, and had invited Dr Verrall to meet with his team this week and discuss variations to some of them - and there were some things New Zealanders could do to help.

He said one of the main ways of reaching people was through the National Health Index.

"One of the key things Kiwis can do is make sure their contact details [with public health authorities] are up to date."

The contact tracing team was able access various other ways of trying to contact people, he said.

"Most people, they know who their close contacts are and they know how to contact them ... sometimes we might get names or we might get 'I was at this supermarket at this time' so sometimes we have to put out a message.

"We also have access to a sort of finding service through police and customs."

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