24 Mar 2021

Early vaccination exceptions confirmed by government - Hipkins

3:06 pm on 24 March 2021

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is providing the latest update on the Pfizer vaccine, and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has the latest on Covid-19 in the country.

Hipkins says there are no further positive cases to report outside of managed isolation facilities.

Genome sequencing has revealed a cleaner at a managed isolation hotel who tested positive for Covid-19 has the UK variant B117, and their infection is a close match to that of a recent returnee.

The person worked at the Grand Millennium managed isolation hotel in Auckland where the returnee stayed from 13 to 15 March. The guest had tested positive on 'day zero-one' testing.

Hipkins says the family member of the managed isolation worker who tested positive has received a second negative test after previously getting a weak-positive result.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says this pattern could indicate it was either a fleeting infection since passed, or it was a false positive.

There is still only one location of interest, the Mt Roskill Countdown between 3pm and 3.15pm on Saturday 20 March.

The MIQ worker is still asymptomatic, Dr Bloomfield says. There are places the person visited but where no one was exposed to the virus, Dr Bloomfield says.

CCTV footage and access card records for the MIQ worker that tested positive are being investigated.

The person was using appropriate PPE gear while working, Dr Bloomfield said.

About 41,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered.

By Tuesday there should be 50 vaccination clinics open, Chris Hipkins says. "We're broadly on schedule," Hipkins says.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says they have delivered about 93 percent of the vaccines they had hoped to by this time.

"Slightly behind but it's ramping up every day."

Of the border workers, there is a 95 percent acceptance rate, he says.

Anyone in a border worker's immediate family group that has not had their appointment confirmed within a week of submitting their details should call Healthline, he says.

At the moment MIQ is sitting at the desired capacity, Hipkins says, but the possibility of a waitlist system for MIQ is being explored.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said there were three new positive cases in managed isolation to report today.

Exemptions for early vaccinations

Hipkins says the Cabinet has made decisions about exceptions to the vaccine plan.

This includes people who need to travel outside NZ for compassionate grounds, including needing to provide critical care for a dependent, visiting an immediate family member who is dying, or accessing critical care not available in New Zealand.

Representing New Zealand in an official capacity is also an exception, he says.

This will not include private or recreational travel.

Applications will open on 31 March.

While funerals are a difficult time for families, they are not included in the compassionate grounds for early vaccination, Hipkins says.

"We had to draw the line somewhere, and this is where we drew the line."

There may be a few hundred athletes who meet the criteria, he says, including Olympians. The Black Caps will need to submit an application to be considered.

"It has to meet those national significance criteria."

Changes to Managed Isolation fees

In a statement, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said that from 1 June, returning New Zealand citizens and residents would need to stay in the country for at least 180 days in order to not be liable to pay managed isolation fees.

This doubles the current 90-day rule.

Temporary entry class visa holders travelling separately from their partners, spouses, legal guardians or children (under 18) of New Zealand citizens or residents, will also be charged higher fees of $5520 for the first or only person in a room, $2990 for an additional adult, and $1610 for an additional child (all including GST).

MBIE can grant a full or partial waiver of managed isolation fees in cases of financial hardship or other special circumstances, or arrange an instalment plan or deferment of payment, for anyone entering the country who is liable for MIQ fees (except critical workers).

There have been no decisions made regarding removing quarantine for vaccinated people at this stage, Hipkins says, but this will be under constant review.

A fogging machine goes into a room to thoroughly disinfect a room in MIQ before cleaners go in and do a thorough clean, he says.

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