29 Aug 2020

Covid-19: What happened in New Zealand on 29 August

9:47 pm on 29 August 2020

The number of new cases in the community is still in double figures, with the government set to confirm tomorrow whether Auckland can drop to alert level two.

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Photo: Tai's Captures/ Unsplash

Eleven new cases of Covid-19 in the community were reported in New Zealand today.

The Health Ministry said today that 10 of the new community cases had clear links to the Auckland cluster.

Six cases were connected to Mt Roskill Evangelical Church, including four people from one house and two who attended church services.

One person who tested positive is being interviewed today to try to find links to the cluster.

From midnight, masks must be worn on buses, trains, ferries and flights at levels 2, 3 and 4. The mask must cover a person's nose and mouth and people should avoid touching them and then touching their face.

Two new cases in managed isolation were also reported.

Eleven people with Covid-19 are in hospital - 10 in hospitals in the Auckland region and one in Waikato. Three people are in intensive care with the virus.

The total number of active confirmed cases is now 136, as well as one previously reported probable case. Twenty of these cases are imported.

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand is now 1376. New Zealand's laboratories processed 9991 tests yesterday.

There was no media conference today, but the government will hold one tomorrow afternoon to confirm whether Auckland can move to a lower alert level at midnight.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19.

Mystery at heart of Auckland's second wave of Covid-19

New Zealand phylogeneticist James Hadfield says the cause of second outbreak of Covid-19 in Auckland remains a "frustrating" mystery.

Hadfield is working with scientists at ESR, the University of Otago and the University of Auckland to map the recent Auckland outbreak, using genetic tracing.

"There's a real mystery about the re-emergence and where it came from," Hadfield said.

"Not knowing the source is frustrating from an academic point of view and it would be beneficial for the overall response to know where it came from, but it's not going to stop us controlling this cluster in Auckland at the moment."

More than two weeks have passed since four members of a family in South Auckland were tested positive for the coronavirus on 11 August.

The new cases came after 102 days without any new cases of community transmission in New Zealand. With no known cause, the outbreak pushed Auckland into a level 3 lockdown.

Hadfield said it seemed likely the virus had been brought into New Zealand by a person returning home from overseas, but genetic testing had been unable to prove this.

Those living in South or West Auckland are now being encouraged to take a test, whether they have symptoms or not.

Covid-19 relief higher than welfare benefits

People getting coronavirus income relief payments for 12 weeks receive more than those on the benefit, according to a new survey.

The University of Auckland, Child Poverty Action Group, Auckland Action Against Poverty, and FIRST Union joined forces for the survey comparing the experiences of people receiving different types of income support.

The Covid income relief payment provides $490 a week for people who have lost full-time work because of the pandemic, whereas some people on the jobseeker benefit get just $250.

People on the higher Covid income relief often had extra resources, such as owning a house or getting passive income, but still reported higher levels of financial worry and stress.

"They had quite high incomes before the lockdown, they've now suddenly had to experience unemployment and they're reporting more mental stress, more financial worry, and talking about stigma and shame," she said.

Humpage said the early findings suggested benefited levels need to increase.

Read more on the story here.

Lockdown 'nail in the coffin' for some Auckland businesses

Some businesses in Auckland say the city's second lockdown has been the in the coffin".

The usually bustling Queen Street in Auckland during level 3 lockdown.

The usually busy Queen Street in Auckland during level 3 lockdown. Photo: RNZ / Amy Williams

Sunny Kaushal manages the century-old Shakespeare Hotel and Brewery in the central city, which he said is losing $10,000 a week.

He is the spokesperson for a group of business owners along Albert Street and in the food court, Elliott Stables.

"Businesses are hit with a double whammy now. Initially it has been seriously impacted by the CRL [City Rail Link] works over the last three years and now the Covid thing happened," Kaushal said.

"The lockdown twice has really taken a huge toll on these businesses."

He said one retailer, who owns a convenience store, has closed due to compounding hardships with Auckland's level 3 restrictions.

"The extended lockdown has proved a final nail in the coffin," Kaushal said.

Roger Marbeck, the owner of record store Marbecks in Queen Street said online sales have slumped over the last two weeks, after holding up well during the lockdown earlier this year.

"The bottom has completely fallen out of the market," he said.

"I'm in touch with the other music retailers as well and everybody's experiencing the same thing. Another week of this and I don't think it will be a pretty picture for some people."

Pasifika hard hit with virus and financial impacts

The Pasifika community is at the centre of the latest Covid-19 outbreak and could suffer the most financially, says the head of New Zealand's largest Pacific health service.

Fono chief executive Tevita Funaki said they were organising medical support and other resources for Pacific families who tested positive and their close contacts.

"Just getting the basic needs to these families, like food. We're also looking at a hardship assessment with these families," Funaki said.

"I think the economic impact on Pasifika families will be quite high. People are losing their jobs."

Fono has had almost 260 referrals for Pasifika families who have tested positive for the coronavirus and their close contacts.

"The families are nervous and there is a level of anxiety there," he said.

"They need to know that this is not their fault. They should be applauded for getting tested and protecting our community."

Air sanitisers could explode on planes

The Civil Aviation Authority is warning that air sanitisers pose a danger of exploding on aircraft.

Personal air sanitisers are worn near the face and are promoted as potentially blocking viral or bacterial airborne infections.

The aviation authority has received reports that the sanitisers are being bought online and delivered by air cargo or carried on board by passengers.

It also warned that alcohol vapours in some hand sanitisers could be ignited by light switches, cigarette lighters or aircraft ignition keys.

It was alerted to the problem after an aviation industry worker was burned shortly after applying alcohol-based hand gel, according to Covid-19 hygiene requirements.

The gel was still wet when the worker touched a metal surface and a build-up of static electricity ignited the gel, causing an almost invisible flame on both hands.

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