24 Aug 2020

Covid-19: What happened on 24 August

9:42 pm on 24 August 2020

The prime minister extends Auckland's level 3 lockdown until at least midnight Sunday, masks are to become mandatory on public transport at level 2 and above and there are nine new cases of Covid-19 today.

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Jacinda Ardern this afternoon announced that Auckland will remain at alert level 3 until at least 11.59pm on Sunday. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The current restrictions - Auckland at alert level 3, and the rest of the country at level 2 - had been due to lift at midnight Wednesday and ministers met this afternoon to review whether community transmission has been contained.

Following a Cabinet meeting to consider the issue, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Aucklanders will face four extra days under alert level 3, with Cabinet wanting more time to make sure the South Auckland cluster is under control.

Auckland will remain at alert level 3 until at least 11.59pm on Sunday night, she said.

The rest of New Zealand will stay at level 2 for at least another fortnight.

Ardern said keeping New Zealand at level 2 is important because of regional travel and many people will want to enter and leave Auckland once it moves to level 2.

However, mass gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 and tangihanga and funerals to 50 in Auckland under level 2, while the rest of the country will continue to operate under alert level 2 rules for gatherings, Ardern said.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Reaction to extension

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said it is disappointing that restrictions have been extended, but conceded that the extension of the lockdown is "necessary". He has urged the city to comply with government guidelines.

Auckland's Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said city businesses are carrying the burden for the rest of the country.

Some mainly small to medium sized businesses are under immense strain and have taken out loans which are hooked into their home mortgages putting their businesses and homes at risk, he said.

Some Auckland principals are disappointed that the level 3 lockdown is not being lifted on Wednesday night.

Auckland Primary Principals' Association president Stephen Lethbridge said the city's schools will do whatever they must, to be ready for the shift to level 2 on Monday.

Masks to become mandatory

Ardern has also announced Cabinet's decision to make masks mandatory on public transport. She said it will apply at level 2 and above, and will come into effect from Monday.

Children will not be required to wear masks, but an exact age is being worked on. Taxis and rideshare services like Uber are included in the rule.

Woman using public transport during Covid-19 crisis wearing face mask.

Masks will become mandatory on public transport at level 2 and above (file picture). Photo: 123RF

National Party leader Judith Collins and ACT Party leader David Seymour have both said they agree with the move to make it mandatory to wear masks on public transport.

Nine new cases of Covid-19

There were nine new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, eight of them linked to the Auckland cluster.

There was also an imported case picked up by Four Points by Sheraton in Auckland. The case is a woman in her 30s who tested positive on day 12 of testing.

The other eight cases are in the community and all epidemiologically linked with the main cluster. Among them, one is linked via travel on a bus, one at a church and two in a workplace.

Hands in medical gloves holding COVID-19 swab. Test tube for taking patient sample, PCR DNA testing protocol process. Nasal swab laboratory test in hospital lab.

Photo: 123RF

There are now 1332 confirmed cases, with 351 probable cases in total. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 123, of which 19 are imported cases from managed isolation facilities.

Ten people are in hospital, two of them in intensive care at Middlemore Hospital.

There are now more than 1.77 million people (43 percent of the adult population over 15) who have signed up to the Covid Tracer app.

In the past seven days, almost 100,000 tests have been processed.

Mandatory isolation for positive Covid-19 cases 'racist'

A Māori health expert says the new mandatory isolation rules for people who contract Covid-19 in the community are shocking, paternalistic and racist.

Anyone who receives a positive test must now stay at a managed isolation facility, rather than isolate at home.

Dr Elana Curtis from Te Roopu Whakakaupapa Uruta said the rule did not exist during the first wave of Covid-19 in New Zealand when most of the confirmed cases involved white people.

"That wasn't there when it was all the non-Māori, non-Pacific, young Pākehā travellers, so why have you done mandatory quarantine isolation for the brown cases and not the white cases?

"That is really quite shocking, it's paternalistic and it's racist."

She was urging the government to reach out to Māori and Pasifika communities and health experts to inform how it responds to the latest outbreak.

Auckland cluster origin may never be known - Hipkins

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said people need to accept the origin of the current Covid-19 cluster in Auckland may never be found.

Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint the earliest case is an Americold employee, but how they became infected is still a mystery.

Any link to border workers, managed isolation and quarantine facilities or recent travellers has not been found.

He said five cases were still being investigated.

Hipkins said the country will always be vulnerable and exposed to the virus, regardless of whether the source of the outbreak is found.

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