29 Aug 2021

Covid-19 lockdown day 12: How it unfolded

8:04 pm on 29 August 2021

New Zealand recorded another 83 cases today, while epidemiologist Michael Baker warned the country will not see a return to level 1 "as we know it". Discover the latest Covid-19 news in our daily summary.

POOL -  Prime Minister Jacinda Arder during the Covid-19 response and vaccine update with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament, Wellington, on day 12 of the alert level 4 lockdown.  29 August, 2021  NZ Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at today's press conference Photo: Pool / NZME

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced this afternoon a further 83 cases had been confirmed in the community - one more than yesterday's total.

They reiterated that while New Zealand had gone "hard and early" in this outbreak, the health system could not do it alone, and everyone needed to work together to make a difference.

Tonight the Viaduct bar Headquarters and Novi Lunch Bar in Mount Wellington were both added to the locations of interest list.

Ardern said three-quarters of the cases reported yesterday were contacts of known cases, but there were still "mystery cases" coming through.

Ardern said it was "deeply concerning" 34 people are in hospital, including two in ICU.

"...We know Delta is both more infectious, but we are seeing studies that are telling us that it is more dangerous, and unfortunately we're seeing that in our hospitalisations. It's another reason we need everyone to act and behave as if they have Covid, and to act and behave carefully."

By the numbers

  • As of 10am, there have been over 32,000 contacts identified, including 29,560 close contacts and 784 "very close contacts"
  • To date, 453 of the cases are epidemiologically linked, with the remaining 58 links being investigated
  • Twenty cases have been linked to Auckland University of Technology. Ardern says it has been difficult to contact trace this group
  • Over 60 percent of cases are aged under 30
  • Yesterday, 23,139 swabs were processed. This is lower than recent days, but many people in self-isolation will be coming up to their day 12 test.
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People had to santise and put on a new mask before being vaccinated at an Albany vaccination centre on Auckland's North Shore Photo: RNZ / Rhonwyn Newson

Will NZ have to learn to live with Covid?

Initial modelling suggested there would be close to 120 cases in this outbreak, but epidemiologist professor Michael Baker told Sunday Morning it is likely we will see more than 1000 cases.

It is becoming clear that dozens of people were infected prior to lockdown which has been driving the higher-than-expected number of infections, he said.

It will be harder to maintain elimination in the long term, and it is critical we get vaccine numbers up, Baker said.

"It may be tough to get back to alert level 1 in New Zealand...I don't think we'll be going back to level 1 as we know it."

Dr Richard Webby, virus and influenza expert.

Richard Webby Photo: Supplied/St Jude Hospital

New Zealander Richard Webby, an infectious disease researcher at a US hospital, said New Zealand's elimination strategy remains the right call, but we would have to learn to live with Covid eventually.

"Sooner or later we are all going to get this thing. Whether it's today, tomorrow, next year or a few years, we're not sure, but it's definitely coming," he said.

"Elimination's worked for New Zealand on and off, but as a global strategy it's not a starter, so this virus is going to be with us forever. At some point... I think this is going to end up like a common cold or flu scenario, where we have to deal with it during winter.

Rules for essential workers under spotlight

Officials will be looking at whether workplaces operating in level 4 are able to do so safely and effectively with the current restrictions "with a Delta lens", Ardern said.

Twenty-five people had exposure events outside of the household, Ardern said of yesterday's cases.

"We're being advised to date that the Ministry of Health analysis is showing that these are generally essential work sites, and tend not to be customer facing sites. We've asked for further analysis of the nature of these workplaces, so we can assess whether our level 4 rules on who is operating is being adhered to, and whether our public health protocols for those businesses that are operating are fit for purpose."

There are four workplaces that are operating at level 4 that have seen transmission within staff, she said.

"This may not be a problem with the rules, say, on the factory floor but what is happening perhaps before or after shifts, or even during break times. We're looking at all of this in more detail, if we need to tighten up our restrictions further, we will."

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Central Wellington was quiet today as people largely adhered to Covid restrictions Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Locations of interest vs exposure sites

Bloomfield said there is a difference between locations of interest and exposure sites, the latter being sites which do not always need to be publicised as sometimes everyone at the site can be identified and contacted.

This is the case for several sites associated with a positive case in a rest home worker near Warkworth, at the southern end of Northland's boundary.

"None of the places there are listed as locations of interest, because everybody who was at those places has been able to be followed up and tracked, but just for your interest they are the Amberlea Rest Home, which is already in the public domain, and I can say that of the people who were in the facility who were in the dementia ward where the worker worked there, all of those have returned negative tests so far, which is great," Bloomfield said.

"The other places were a medical centre in Warkworth, but again anyone who was at the centre at a time when they may have been exposed has been followed up, and finally, Southern Paprika, a large workplace - again all those who may have been exposed there have been followed up."

Amberlea Rest Home at Algies Bay in the Warkworth area.

Amberlea Rest Home at Algies Bay in the Warkworth area. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

New locations of interest continue to be added to the Covid-19 website.

Record cases for NSW

New South Wales has recorded 1218 Covid-19 cases in its update today. It's the largest number ever recorded by an Australian jurisdiction in a 24-hour period.

It also recorded six Covid deaths - three people in their 80s and three in their 70s.

Victoria recorded 92 new locally acquired cases, as authorities are confronted with a possible new cluster emerging in inner Melbourne.

It is the highest daily tally recorded in the state so far in 2021, and the largest number of cases recorded in a single day since 110 on 2 September, 2020.

More support for mental health, homeless

There was a spike in calls to Youthline early in lockdown, with the government injecting $275,000, Ardern said. Today she announced a further $1 million would be pumped into existing contracts and services to support rangatahi, particularly in Auckland and Northland.

Anyone can call 1737 for support or Youthline can be reached on 0800-376-633 or by free text to 234.

There is also a targeted mental health support available to Pacific Communities via 0800 OLA LELEI (0800-652-535).

Ardern said there was also ongoing support for people needing emergency housing during lockdown, with more motel units contracted.

Ducks cross a tram line in Christchurch during the August 2021 lockdown.

Ducks cross a tram line in Christchurch during the August 2021 lockdown. Photo: AFP / Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto

Auckland's three district health boards are working closely with organisations to provide vaccinations to the homeless, while an additional $7m for food security was announced yesterday, Ardern said.

"If you're unable to afford food, call MSD on 0800-559-009 to see if you're eligible for assistance, or to be connected to other forms of assistance that is available.

"If you're at home isolating or having problems accessing food, you can ask family, friends, neighbours if they can help deliver food for you. Deliveries should be contactless and kept local,. For those in self-isolation, or who have no other way to access food, the student volunteer army also has a grocery delivery service, visit www.shop.sva.org.nz"

Family violence and sexual violence services are considered essential services and are continuing to operate at level 4.

Māori Party opposes MIQ in Rotorua

The Māori Party has launched a petition calling for no more MIQ facilities in Rotorua.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have confirmed the development of new MIQ facilities were being considered, including in Rotorua, despite opposition from the community.

Co-leader Rawiri Waititi said the Lakes DHB has made it clear another facility in the city will put too much pressure on healthcare, and he feared Rotorua locals will miss out.

It was time for another region, such as Queenstown, to step up, he said.

Meanwhile, a worker at a managed isolation facility has tested positive for Covid-19.

Ministry of Health said an investigation was underway into how the staff member at the Four Points by Sheraton was infected, but they are potentially linked to the community outbreak.

Just over 100 people charged with breaching lockdown rules

More than 100 people have been charged with breaching the current lockdown rules, but police are encouraging people to stay the course while alert level 4 restrictions remain in place.

Since level 4 began, 103 people have been charged with a total of 111 offences nationwide as at 5pm yesterday.

Among them was a woman in the Rodney area on Friday who was not wearing a face covering in a supermarket and carrying a forged document claiming she was exempt. An officer on compliance patrols stopped and spoke with the woman, in her 20s.

A document she produced claiming an exemption was examined, and was found to be forged. Charges under the Crimes Act and breaching the Health Order are being considered.

"We know that more time under alert level 4 restrictions can be tough, and people may be experiencing difficult situations at the moment," Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a statement.

"Police are here to help, and we will continue to respond to calls for service where there is concern for peoples' safety."

Cabinet will meet tomorrow to look at current alert levels, with level 3 to begin for south of Auckland at midnight Tuesday, but it is expected Auckland will remain in level 4 for another two weeks.

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