30 Aug 2020

Covid-19: What happened in New Zealand on 30 August

8:21 pm on 30 August 2020

As Auckland prepares to move to "alert level 2.5" from midnight, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warns New Zealanders to expect more cases for some time.

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Photo: 123RF

There were two cases reported today, both related to the Auckland cluster.

One was an employee of Finance Now, one of the companies linked to the cluster, and the other was a Tokoroa-based GP.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today that Auckland would move down from level 3, despite experts' fears it could lead to an increase in case numbers.

Ardern said Auckland was shifting to a form of level 2 she was going to call"level 2.5".

Social gatherings in Auckland will be limited to 10, and weddings, funerals and tangihanga limited to 50 people.

"I cannot stress how important this is," Ardern said.

"Much of this cluster has stemmed from social gatherings, if we want to stop this spread we have to stop socialising for a time."

More cases expected for some time

Ardern said the system to combat Covid-19 was working well, but the government would step up levels again "if we need to".

She said there were still cases coming through from the current cluster in Auckland, and this was expected to continue.

"The tail of this cluster will be long."

She said it was "highly likely" there will be more cases identified through extensive testing.

Two people have now recovered, so the total number of active cases remains at 136.

Ten people with Covid-19 are in hospital, including two in ICU. Two are in Auckland Hospital, three in Middlemore, three in North Shore and two in Waikato.

Doctor contracts Covid-19

One of the new cases is a GP in Tokoroa, where several cases have appeared - all linked to the Auckland cluster.

It is believed they came into contact with the existing case on 17 August, and after one negative test the positive result was picked up in the doctor on a second test when they became unwell.

Medical Director Dr Bryan Betty said circumstances around the transmission were unclear.

"This demonstrates the difficulty with Covid, and how infectious it actually can be. The health worker in question was wearing full PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], did everything absolutely by the book, but Covid is a very difficult virus."

Staff and patients from the medical centre are now being contacted. The case lives alone and has no household contacts.

The other new case is a household contact of a previously confirmed case associated with the Finance Now workplace.

PM 'incredibly angry' over wrong testing advice

In a social media post yesterday, the government told people who live in west and South Auckland, or who were at a greater risk of poor health outcomes, to get tested.

But at today's Covid-19 briefing, Ardern said this was an oversimplification.

The government has encouraged hundreds of thousands of people in South and West Auckland to get a Covid-19 test, whether or not they are showing symptoms, but the Prime Minister says this was an 'oversimplification'.

One of the social media posts the prime minister said was "oversimplified" Photo: Screenshot

"That is not the ask coming from health officials currently ... from what I understand of that message that has gone out, the detail of the message is correct, some of the topline headings were oversimplified and it is wrong.

"We're working very hard now to deal with what that's created within the community, and we're working very hard to correct that."

She said she was "incredibly angry" that it wasn't clear, and the government had to be "very direct in our asks".

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said 10,487 tests were processed yesterday.

"If you are offered a test for Covid-19, please take it," McElnay said.

Masks to become mandatory from midnight

Masks will be mandatory on all public transport from midnight.

People with a disability or physical or mental health condition that makes covering their face unsuitable are exempt, as are those aged under 12.

Ardern said the new rule was because buses were one of the few places where people were in close proximity with people they did not know for a sustained period of time.

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

Photo: 123RF

Police will be based at transport hubs tomorrow to remind people of the new restrictions and mask requirement, and distribute masks to passengers.

Hipkins has said there will be a "light touch" in terms of enforcement, although people can face a $300 infringement notice or a fine of up to a $1000 imposed by the courts.

Auckland Transport spokesperson Mark Hannan said they were hoping to take an educational approach rather than trying to strictly enforce the new rule.

Expert nervous about move to level 2

Covid-19 data modelling expert Shaun Hendy said the government should consider extending level 3.

Hendy was concerned by the number of cases that had been picked up through community testing instead of via contact tracing.

He said easing the travel restrictions meant people could spread the infection to other parts of the country.

People will need to keep strict hygiene standards and maintain physical distancing, wear masks and use the government's Covid-19 tracer app, he said.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the move to alert level 2 could see a growth in the case rate.

"It does suggest if we reduce the controls starting tomorrow that that transmission will not go away and it may actually drift up, or track up, over the next few weeks.

Baker said requiring mask use in all indoor environments is one of the few ways left to keep a lid on the spread.

The National Māori Pandemic Group said moving Auckland out of alert level 3 tomorrow was premature and dangerous.

Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā - which is made up of Māori medical and primary health experts - said it was not confident the outbreak was fully contained.

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