24 Aug 2021

Covid-19 update: 41 new cases in the community - Bloomfield

2:19 pm on 24 August 2021

There are 41 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today, a day after the country's lockdown was extended.

POOL - Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Covid-19 and vaccines update at Parliament, Wellington, on Day 5 of the Covid-19 Alert level 4 lockdown.  22 August, 2021  NZ Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: Pool / NZME

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said 38 of the new cases were in Auckland and three in Wellington.

The Wellington cases were among contacts first reached two evenings ago, and have known links to the outbreak.

About 59 cases in the Auckland outbreak have not yet been epidemiologically linked to the outbreak, Bloomfield said, but it was clear the vast majority of those were either are a close contact or were at a location of interest.

There are eight Covid-19-positive patients in hospital, none in ICU, all in pressure-isolated rooms.

There are 80 genomes sequences, all linked to the outbreak.

Bloomfield said the majority of cases in the outbreak are linked to the subcluster at the Assembly of God church.

The second-biggest subcluster is associated with the first cases identified, which has 23 cases.

More than 15,000 contacts

As of 9am today there were 15,741 contacts formally identified, about 10 times as many as there were in the outbreak about this time last year in Auckland.

There are now nearly 900 frontline contact tracers working around the country.

There are 369 contacts who could be considered the "very closest contacts".

Bloomfield said all cases were interviewed within 24 hours and 89 percent of close contacts were interviewed within 24 hours of a case notification.

"The time from exposure event to contact identification, the metric is over 80 percent within 24 hours and that's sitting at 75 percent at the moment."

He said there were an additional 100 locations of interest since the last update, more than 400 in total.

Yesterday there were 35,376 tests processed across the country. Bloomfield said the wait times had been lower, and more primary care providers had been performing them.

He said wastewater testing from Warkworth had been negative, and genome sequencing suggests it was someone who was infected transited briefly through Warkworth.

There are more than 2000 people working on the Covid vaccination healthline. On its busiest day, 19 August, the service spoke to more than 24,000 people.

Vaccination rates and six subclusters

Bloomfield said vaccination rates for Pacific and Māori were similar to or slightly higher in each age group compared with other age groups.

He said the rates were lower for Pacific in South Auckland than other areas which is why the government was working on reaching that community.

Bloomfield said modelling suggested the peak had not yet been hit, and while the numbers had increased today it was reassuring that cases had not risen exponentially.

He said soon all the cases that would have arisen before lockdown would be identified.

Bloomfield was confident of infection prevention and control procedures a the vaccination centre near the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility.

He said testing suggested the transmission from the case who stayed at the Crowne Plaza did not come through staff, but it was still a possibility. Work is still being done to figure out how the virus got out.

He said there had been scam test results texted to people and added that anyone who tested positive would receive a phone call, not a text.

Of the Assembly of God church cluster, he said it was a combination of people who were at the service as well as other members of the household and close contacts.

He said there were six subclusters identified in the overall outbreak.

There were about 27 different church groups that moved up to Auckland for the Assembly of God service, including some who travelled up from Wellington.

More than 500 people have been tested as part of the cluster.

"Anyone who is a close contact or has been in a high-risk setting, that testing is prioritised." He says there are five testing stations around Auckland that are "invitation only", and with the high demand there is currently a turnaround of about 48 hours.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said all the testing capacity around the country was being used, including talks with universities about resources there can be brought on board.

He said an MIQ worker at the Novotel in Ellerslie who tested positive yesterday was fully vaccinated and was a close contact of another case. The person worked one shift, he said; all others were being tested but it was not a case of the infection coming from MIQ.

Bloomfield said separate demographic information about the cases in the outbreak would be available from this afternoon and updated daily.


Robertson said ministers received assurances from police that people were by and large being compliant.

He said nothing about the lockdown changed employment law, and while the wage subsidy was there to support those who could not work, people should be paid for the hours that they were working.

On the seriousness of Covid-19, Bloomfield said if New Zealand followed the same approach as was seen in Scotland, about 10,000 people would have died within about 20 months.

"Annually we have around 600 influenza-related deaths, so it's a magnitude of difference, and that's not counting all of the people who may have been infected many of whom we are seeing from studies around the world have ongoing symptoms."

He said even with the high vaccination rates seen in the UK, an uncontrolled outbreak would see the equivalent of about nine or 10 deaths a day in New Zealand.

Robertson said significant additional testing was being stood up in Auckland and it did not make sense for people to be travelling from Auckland to Thames to get a test.

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