24 Jun 2021

Covid-19: No cases in the community after nearly 7000 tests - Chris Hipkins

2:22 pm on 24 June 2021

There are no cases of Covid-19 in the community today and no new cases in managed isolation facilities.

Watch the update here:

This afternoon, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins gave an update on the government's response following the Australian tourist case in Wellington.

Yesterday the Wellington region was moved into alert level 2 after a Sydney tourist tested positive for the virus.

Hipkins says they are still waiting on genomic sequencing for the case.

But he says the person's partner is asymptomatic and their test results have come back negative. The person is also back in Australia.

All four close contacts in New Zealand of the tourist have already been identified and their tests were also negative.

Today there are no positive Covid-19 cases in the community, Hipkins says.

Bloomfield says there are also no cases to report today in managed isolation.

He says NSW officials confirmed an epidemiological link to the Bondi cluster yesterday.

"This is reassuring, it confirms and fits the pattern of infection that the person was experiencing and the test results pretty much confirming that link to the Sydney outbreak."

He says they are expecting the full genome sequencing including confirmation of the variant later today.

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The case's partner received their first dose of a vaccine about three weeks ago.

Hipkins says all schools and early learning services are open and people should attend unless they are sick.

"We expect the number of close contacts and casual contacts that we're asking to be tested to increase as the contact tracing effort continues and the results of all of that work including the testing results will help to guide a decision when Cabinet meets to review those alert levels."

Cabinet is meeting to review alert levels on Sunday morning.

Covid-19 testing

Nearly 7000 tests were processed yesterday, with about 2100 in the Wellington region. That's about five times the number of tests processed the day before that.

He says the current wait time for testing across the system is about 10 to 15 minutes.

Hipkins says many GPs also do testing but people should phone in first so people taking tests can follow their protocols - they will have specific places where people should go.

"Higher demand for testing is a good thing, it is to be expected ... if you are not one of the people who was in the locations of interest and you are not showing symptoms please make sure that testing is available to those who are in those categories."

Meanwhile, wastewater testing is now being done daily in Wellington.

Bloomfield says Monday's results were negative: "We are now approaching five days since the case was in Wellington."

There are over 50 testing sites across the Wellington region, Bloomfield says. There will be an additional central city testing site established either later today or tomorrow, he says, and more information will be made available about that.

He says today's capacity is for about 3500 tests, by tomorrow it will be another 4500 tests able to be done in a single day.

Yesterday was the fourth-biggest day in the history of the Healthline service, he says. There was a very high wait time yesterday but they are working very very hard to bring that wait time down, Hipkins says.

Contact tracing

As of 8am about 420 contacts had been identified as contacts either by calling Healthline or having turned up to be tested after having been at a location of interest. This includes the 58 passengers who arrived on the Qantas flight early on Saturday with the case. All but five of those 58 have been spoken to and seven have returned to Australia.

No one who flew on the flight back to Sydney on Monday has returned to New Zealand, Bloomfield says.

Bloomfield says more than 250 people received a push notification from the app after having signed in at locations of interest. He says use of the app increased by about 100,000 scans yesterday.

"I think we could grow that exponentially ... scan, scan, scan, you never know when it might be needed."

Bloomfield says Jack Hackett's and Four Kings bars - on different floors in the same building - are both locations of interest and share a QR code. He says people who were in those locations at the time of interest should follow the advice on the website.

Healthline mistakenly told some people who visited Four Kings that they did not need to self-isolate and be tested.

Bloomfield also says some QR codes are specific to individual rooms in buildings.

He says the sector 70 notice in place at the moment places a legal requirement on people who were at the locations of interest at the stated times to follow the instructions from the government. It is enforceable, he says.

Hipkins says at this point he believes the list of locations of interest is comprehensive. "Based on what we know now ... the list is the full list."

Some people have said the information and advice being given to people who may have been in locations of interest is sometimes contradictory or confusing. Hipkins says getting the right information to everyone is a challenge but the Ministry of Health website has the authoritative list of the locations and what is expected of the people who have been there.

Bloomfield says for a short period of time, the advice included 'close' or 'casual plus' contact information but that is no longer the case.

"In fact even in our meetings internally we are talking about the groups depending on what is being asked of them. There are people who are being asked to isolate for 14 days and be tested several times. There are people who are being asked to isolate, be tested and wait for that negative result. Then of course there are also people who may just being asked just to monitor for symptoms for 14 days. But we are not attaching labels to those groups of people."

Where people have been in locations of interest, there is a requirement for them to get in touch with authorities, Hipkins says.

Bloomfield says even if people return a negative result the advice is very clear: "Continue to monitor for symptoms for that full 14-day period from first exposure, and if you have any symptoms then isolate and be retested.

Hipkins says information about who is getting tested and why tends to come in and be collated when the results arrive. Bloomfield says so far quite a number of people have identified being symptomatic.

Fiji and the trans-Tasman bubble

Hipkins says information sharing with Australia has been comprehensive.

"They are dealing with this case as what is part of a growing outbreak in Sydney but they are working quite closely with us."

On Fiji, Bloomfield says it's not for him to say if Fiji will be able to get its Covid-19 outbreak under control.

"I think it will be a challenge for them and a big focus ... is vaccination. We're working as fast as possible to ensure that our approval of AstraZeneca goes through and that we're expecting over the coming weeks, and we're able to then get deliveries of AstraZeneca into the country, and able to on-donate them to Fiji and other countries."

Hipkins says Australia is helping with vaccine supply for Fiji in the interim.

Bloomfield says the ministry will look at whether other measures also need to be brought in for travel with other Australian states.

Hipkins says the Cook Islands bubble is still open. He understands a few people were taken off a flight to the Cook Islands to be interviewed before travel there based on information they had supplied in their travel form.

Vaccine rollout

On the new vaccine booking system, Bloomfield says it allows people to book on behalf of someone else but they need all their information and at this point bookings cannot be made for whole groups, they must be made individually. However, efforts are made to vaccinate people who turn up as a group to be vaccinated.

Hipkins says some providers have been "going gangbusters" and booking more vaccinations than they have planned access to vaccines. This is after reports some Māori vaccination centres in Taranaki were asked to scale back their vaccination efforts.

"Unfortunately we can't just produce more vaccines out of nowhere ... those providers who are wanting to go faster, that is the reason we are saying you cannot go faster."

Bloomfield says the normal vaccine delivery is on Tuesday, with reporting on Wednesday. The delivery last week arrived on Thursday, which is why it has not showed up in the stats.

Hipkins says DHBs are now "sticking to plan" on vaccines rather than going ahead of plan.

"We are going to be living for a couple of weeks a pretty hand-to-mouth existence when it comes to vaccines arriving and us pushing them out as quickly as we can... we have made the decision to run our vaccine stocks down to nothing so that we can keep the vaccine campaign going but it does create quite a lot of pressure on the people who are doing it and some risk if there is a delay in any of the shipments arriving."

Earlier today Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson warned that a longer level 2 in Wellington could cost the economy $10 million.

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