31 Aug 2021

Covid-19 update: Bloomfield says no update on how virus got into the community

3:12 pm on 31 August 2021

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says we may never find out the source of the current outbreak, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she lies awake at night pondering the ways in which it may have happened.

Watch today's Covid-19 update here:

In today's update, Bloomfield says there are 49 new cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland.

He says we may never find out how the virus got into the community in the latest outbreak.

Ardern says she lies awake at night pondering the ways in which it may have happened.

"Now we're left with theories without people-to-people contact," she says.

Bloomfield yesterday welcomed the lower number of new cases - 53, down from 83 the previous day - but with lower testing numbers on Sunday cautioned against putting too much stock in it, saying it was just one data point.

Ardern also announced Auckland would remain in lockdown until at least 14 September, and Northland would likely move into level 3 just two days after the rest of the country's Tuesday night change.

Today Ardern says alert level 3 for all of Aotearoa south of Auckland is progress but still requires "a high level of caution".

"Bubbles stay in place," she says.

She says it's not until level 2 that you can contact those outside your bubble.

She also reiterated that Delta has meant changes to level 3.

Outward facing businesses must have employees wearing facemasks and everyone else is encouraged to wear masks while out and about, she says.

"Stay at home, keep bubbles small, exercise and shop locally, keep your distance from people ... work from home if possible, keep young and old people at home."

Ardern says public venues remain closed.

From tomorrow, all people aged 12 and older can book in for a vaccination.

To businesses, Ardern says operating must meet health measures.

Travel across the alert level 3 and 4 boundary is strictly limited, she says.

The boundary is there to "stop the spread of a particularly tricky and infectious virus", she says.

She wants the declining case number to decline.

"We want the tail of this outbreak to be as short as possible."

Ardern says the alert level for the South Island will be reassessed in a week's time.

They do not want to make decisions that are "premature", she says.

"We would not have moved to an alert level 3 environment if we did not think it was safe."

The government was being overly cautious and using level 3 in a place where it might have once used level 2.

Ardern says everyone from "all walks of life" need to be the best roles models they can be.

She says the vaccine strategy was always to ramp up towards the end of the year.

"Every day for me is another step, a bit of progress, but I want to see sustained reductions ... we've still got a journey to go through," Ardern says of case numbers dropping.

Ardern says by and large, MIQ has done the job of keeping the virus out of New Zealand.

The fact that it has been so long without the virus in the country shows how rigorous the MIQ system is, Bloomfield says.

Ardern says the outbreak has shown how important elimination and vaccination are.

Bloomfield says teams are looking at alert level 2 settings and how they can be strengthened - including mask use.

Ardern says the government will give people a refresher on the rules for alert level 2 when needed.

On Parliament sitting today, Ardern says she's frustrated because there were alternative ways to do it.

"It is a disappointment that we could not have been as agile as the rest of New Zealand."

"Our view was that moving to an online forum would have allowed opposition MPs to have access to MPs from across the country."

While MPs were essential workers and legally allowed to travel, it was up to them to choose to travel, she says.

She reiterated her disappointment in the decision by opposition parties to reject an online sitting of Parliament.

Bloomfield says his advice on Parliament - if it had to sit - was around mask use, social distancing and the number of people that could be in the debating chamber safely.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is facing continued criticism from vaccinees over its communications about a possible dosage error that may have meant some were getting saline instead of a Pfizer shot.

After people affected were told they would receive a letter, a couple vaccinated on the day in question received just one email between them which advised calling an 0800 number that did not answer their questions.

On Auckland's flooding, Ardern says it has caused severe damage.

Fire and Emergency had attended to almost 370 emergency calls by 10.30am today.

There is a shelter for those who need it on Henderson Valley Road, Ardern says.

"We understand that the situation means that some bubbles are joining other families simply by necessity that they need shelter."

Trust Arena and airport park and ride vaccination centres have now reopened, she says.

"Anyone impacted will be contacted ... to rebook at a later date."

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