25 Jun 2021

No Covid-19 cases in community, no signs of virus in wastewater tests - Hipkins reveals

3:43 pm on 25 June 2021

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in the community in New Zealand today, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Watch the update here:

This afternoon, Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield provided the latest information surrounding the visit to Wellington of a Sydney man with Covid-19.

It is still unclear whether the Sydney man has the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Hipkins says in some ways the possibility of the person having the Delta variant has not changed the approach because in New Zealand, authorities have always assumed that Covid-19 is very infectious. He says the ultra-cautious approach still applies.

Bloomfield clarifies that the Delta variant is known through evidence from the UK to be considerably more infectious, and seems to affect younger people more than the earlier variants, but New Zealand's approach - shutting down any infection - has not changed.

Bloomfield says the follow-up tests of the two close contacts in Palmerston North have returned negative.

When asked about the possibility that the Sydney man - who had one dose of a vaccine - may be one of those who are less likely to spread the virus, Hipkins says: "We can hope for that outcome but we can't work on the assumption that that's what the outcome is going to be."

Hipkins also reveals that wastewater testing shows Covid-19 has not been detected in Wellington, the Hutt Valley or Porirua.

He says a total of 10,749 tests were processed yesterday, 3713 of those in Wellington.

Read more:

Wellington is now on day two of alert level 2 which will last until at least 11.59pm on Sunday.

Hipkins says testing demand remains high and as announced last night a new testing station has opened today at the Te Papa car park.

Demand at the Taranaki Street station is also still high, he says.

"If you know someone who was at a location of interest but you yourself were not at a location of interest, you do not need to test and isolate but we do ask that you monitor your health and if you get symptoms call Healthline for advice on whether you need to get a test."

People should remain vigilant including the people on 195 Air NZ flights that left Wellington over the weekend and on Monday, Hipkins says.

"If we all follow the public health guidance it will help to keep us all safe."

Cabinet is set to meet on Sunday morning to assess the latest evidence and consider alert level changes.

Hipkins says the Sunday Cabinet meeting will be solely about the possibility of changing the current alert level 2 in Wellington.

Hipkins says if there is a need to give a statement tomorrow then that will happen, but at this point the plan is for a written statement. They expect to make a live statement on Sunday after a decision is made about alert levels.

In the meantime, quarantine-free travel between New South Wales and New Zealand has been suspended.

On case numbers, there are two new cases in recent returnees in managed isolation facilities.

Locations of interest and self-isolation

Bloomfield reiterated that anyone around the country who was at any of the locations of interest at the relevant points of time or who has symptoms should seek a test.

"It is very important that people ring and book ahead," he says.

He says there was a slight amendment to the locations of interest at Wellington Airport this morning. Anyone who visited the men's toilets on level 1 at the north end of the main terminal adjacent to the food store, between 9.15 and 9.30am should isolate and seek advice about how to book a test.

He reminded people who are being asked to isolate that they are legally mandated to do so.

Bloomfield says the numbers at the moment suggest about 100 people were in the two bars, where the Sydney visitor went, at the relevant times. Some are classified as people who need to isolate for 14 days and be tested, the rest will have to isolate and be tested.

Hipkins says anecdotally, because the weather was unusually bad on that Saturday night, patronage at hospitality venues appears to have been lower.

Bloomfield says they don't have numbers right now on how many people were contacted because of Bluetooth contact tracing through the app specifically. He says they will get that data.

On contact tracing and as of 8am on Friday, 1752 people have been identified as contacts and are in the national contact-tracing database.

So far, of the 1752 contacts, 532 have returned a negative result, eight have returned overseas and for 1212 are awaiting a test result due to the requirement to get tested after day five since potential exposure.

He says of the 550 people required to isolate for 14 days, 248 - 45 percent - have returned a negative result as of this morning. Of those who are required to isolate only until they get a negative result, 282 have returned a negative result (just under 24 percent).

Bloomfield also reminded people that for those outside the Wellington region "alert level 1 is not alert level none".

Hipkins says he is encouraged by what they are seeing so far, but says it is still early days.

Trans-tasman bubble

On the trans-Tasman bubble, Hipkins says they are keeping a "very close watch" on developments after Melbourne recorded two new cases yesterday.

He says New South Wales (NSW) has a very strong contact tracing system and leans heavily on that, and because of that may be more reluctant to impose heavier lockdown restrictions. The state has recorded 22 new cases today, with four areas going into lockdown.

He says it's not necessarily the case that New Zealanders will be able to return 14 days after the pause. He says it's a case-by-case basis and with Victoria the public health advice aligned.

"I can't guarantee that it will be the same with NSW because their situation might be different to the one Victoria found itself in."

He notes there is space set aside in MIQ specifically for trans-Tasman bubble contingencies.

Bloomfield says everyone who has travelled from Sydney since their outbreak started has been emailed since their arrival in New Zealand. Anyone who has been in a location of interest is required to get a test and isolate.

"We are certainly still in that period where there is that increased risk," Hipkins says.

On the Cook Islands travel bubble, Hipkins says they have not directly raised concerns with New Zealand about continuing to allow travel with Australia at this point - or at least not that he is aware of.

QR codes and vigiliance

On making QR code scanning mandatory, Hipkins says he's looked regularly over the last year at the possibility of it, but there are some big logistical hurdles including how it would be enforced and the additional compliance requirements that would impose further burdens on small businesses.

"It's something that we've looked at several times and at this point I'm not convinced that it would necessarily help us or increase the uptake of QR codes.

"As well as taking a very cautious approach when it comes to Covid-19 we're also mindful of not asking people to do things where there's not a good public health reason for it."

Hipkins mentioned earlier it is coming up to a year that he has been the minister responsible of the Covid-19 response. He says it has "never been a dull day during that time. Every day is different with Covid-19. Covid-19 doesn't stop and so as a result over that period of time I haven't either."

Asked if New Zealanders have become complacent about the risk, he says New Zealanders have become more comfortable but that does not mean they are no longer vigilant.

More on today's numbers

The two new cases in managed isolation came from the UK and Philippines, both via Singapore, arriving on 22 June and were tested in routine day 0/1 testing.

The number of active cases in New Zealand is 19.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is 2. Since 1 January 2021, there have been 76 historical cases, out of a total of 553 cases.

Our total number of confirmed cases is 2369.

The seven-day rolling average for testing is 5273.

There have been 894,288 scans in the last 24 hours to midday yesterday.

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