25 Aug 2020

Seven new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, all linked to cluster - Bloomfield

2:05 pm on 25 August 2020

There are seven new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, all linked to the latest Auckland cluster, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says.

He says two of the cases are linked to a church and two are household contacts. One previously reported case has recovered, so the total number of active cases in New Zealand is 129, he says.

There are 2446 close contacts associated with the cluster, he says, of which 2390 had been contacted and were self-isolating. The remaining 56 were being contacted, he said.

He says there are 160 people linked to the cluster in a quarantine facility, including 89 who tested positive. Eight people are in hospital, with three people in a critical condition and in intensive care.

The new cases bring New Zealand's total confirmed cases to 1339. Labs processed 4434 tests yesterday, bringing total test numbers to 701,504, Dr Bloomfield says.

He says more than 1.8 million people, nearly 45 percent of the population aged 15 and over, have registered for the Covid Tracer app. There have been well over a million scans every day for the past seven days, he says.

Ashley Bloomfield

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Dr Bloomfield says genome sequencing has linked the community case still under investigation to the latest cluster, but an epidemiological link is still being investigated. He says the person is in intensive care at North Shore Hospital.

There are currently three unlinked cases and Dr Bloomfield says they are concerned about the case of the person currently in hospital.

He says they're working on policy related to masks in schools but to remember WHO advice is targeted to countries with wide-spread community outbreaks.

Ministry aiming for 70,000 tests in seven days - Hipkins

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says the Covid-19 defence systems have gone into overdrive over the past two weeks. He says nearly a quarter of all the testing done for Covid-19 this year has taken place in the past two weeks.

A new target of an additional 70,000 tests across the country is in place for the next seven days, he says.

"It's challenging to keep up this pace but it is doable."

"Please play your part by getting a test."

South Auckland communities will be a specific target of community testing, he says, with 70 percent of these tests to be in Auckland.

Six more mobile testing units to be added in the area. The units will be active for two to three days at a time before moving to a different location, he says.

No caption

Health Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Hipkins says they've been working closely with Māori and Pasifika health professionals and Dr Bloomfield says many staff in pop-up locations are explicitly Māori and Pasifika.

He says this will allow people to speak in their first language if necessary, however Dr Bloomfield says he cannot guarantee there will be Māori and Pasifika at testing sites.

Hipkins says DHBs are reporting testing fatigue, with testing numbers dropping below 5000 yesterday and today, and urges New Zealanders to keep getting tested.

He warns that the latest cluster is not completely identified yet.

"There are still some gaps in the jigsaw," says Hipkins, and the government's message is "please don't relax now".

He says when a positive test result is found testing, people know about it very quickly.

Dr Bloomfield says he expects all the people who were symptomatic when the new community cases were revealed have since been tested.

He says people with symptoms should be tested and asymptomatic people in Auckland will also be tested as part of surveillance testing.

Further details

Hipkins says details of mandatory mask use and how it will work in practice will be released on Thursday.

Requirements for masks on school buses will also be among the things clarified on Thursday, Hipkins says, but he has not seen evidence to suggest masks in schools will greatly increase safety.

He advises people who are in a group with people they don't know, or are only occasional contacts, to wear a mask.

"Wear a mask when in doubt," he says.

Hipkins says Dr Shane Reti asked for a briefing yesterday but they were unable to make time for it. He plans to speak to Dr Reti this afternoon.

Briefings have been provided to the Opposition when they've been requested, Hipkins said.

"We've not been declining the briefings," he says.

He says 80 percent of contacts traced are being contacted within 48 hours, meeting the "gold standard" level for contact tracing the government aims to meet.

"The scale and speed of this response should give New Zealanders a sense of pride," Hipkins says.

Hipkins says air travel is an area of vulnerability but he has no changes to restrictions in this respect to be announced.

The current Covid-19 restrictions were extended yesterday, and masks will be mandatory on public transport for level 2 and above, starting on Monday.

Yesterday, there were eight new cases in the community - linked to the cluster - and one case in managed isolation facility.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report today it would most likely be weeks before New Zealand can reach the tail on the chain of transmission on Auckland's Covid-19 cluster.

This morning, National Party leader Judith Collins hit out at Hipkins, claiming he had not given the party's health spokesperson a briefing on the Covid-19 situation in over a week.

"I've made it very plain that without better advice - the advice that the prime minister has - we have to actually accept that decision she's made because we do not have the advice that she's made that on."

The party also called for another extension to the wage subsidy scheme to support businesses during the ongoing restrictions.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

  • 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 - don't show up at a medical centre

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs