1 Sep 2021

Covid-19 alert Day 15 - How it unfolded

10:08 pm on 1 September 2021

Regions south of Auckland woke up this morning to an easing of lockdown restrictions, with an alert level 3 response allowing businesses limited trade and the public varying degrees of freedom.

South of Auckland enjoys an easing of lockdown restrictions, community Covid-19 cases go up from yesterday, MIQ bookings paused with a new booking system on the way, and border policing runs smoothly.

South of Auckland enjoys an easing of lockdown restrictions, community Covid-19 cases go up from yesterday, MIQ bookings paused with a new booking system on the way, and border policing runs smoothly. Photo: rnz

But New Zealand's new Covid-19 community cases increased from 49 yesterday to 75 today, underlining warnings by health experts the battle against the Delta variant is far from over.

One of the cases was in Wellington, an asymptomatic household contact who'd been in isolation. The other cases were in Auckland.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield emphasised there was no cause for alarm and that modelling showed the lockdown was continuing to break chains of transmission. Bloomfield said 75 percent of the new cases did not create any exposure events.

About 40 supermarkets across Auckland were named as locations of interest today, but they were considered 'low risk'. These had been added as an extra precaution, the Ministry of Health said.

A security guard worked at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department on Thursday last week while symptomatic with Covid-19.

Middlemore Hospital had undergone building work to accommodate more Covid-19 patients. Photo: LDR / Stephen Forbes

It was revealed today two Auckland hospitals had undertaken emergency building work for make more negative pressure rooms for Covid-19 patients. Auckland City Hospital and Middlemore Hospital have been stretched with the Auckland Delta outbreak, with rooms for patients either at capacity or near.

Vaccinations speed up

Vaccination efforts around the country were in full swing today.

Almost 70 percent of the eligible population have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or have booked to have one, Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins told media this afternoon.

About 1.9 million future vaccinations were in the booking system, with 68 percent of New Zealanders aged 12-plus and 83 percent of those aged over 40 having had a vaccination or booked in for at least one shot.

About half of the eligible population have now received one dose of the vaccine.

Hipkins said the government was attempting to increase vaccine supply and that existing supply would now be focused on Auckland. Bloomfield earlier told Morning Report if daily vaccine supplies could not match current big demand, then roll-out areas could be slowed to prioritise Auckland.

The announcement was welcomed by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

In a statement from Auckland City Council today, Goff encouraged people to take their children to get vaccinated.

"From today, everyone in New Zealand over 12 is eligible for vaccination against Covid-19," he said.

"The latest community outbreak shows that people of every age including the young are affected, and the best protection against the disease and its spread is to be vaccinated," he said.

"More than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have now been administered in Auckland and the city has one of the highest per capita rates of vaccination in the country."

Hospitals seek intensive care nurses

Auckland's hospitals asked other DHBs to send intensive care nurses to bolster numbers, with dozens of Covid-19 patients in hospitals - eight in intensive care and three on ventilators, as of last night.

Bloomfield said today other nurses and health care assistants were also being requested to help in Auckland.

Drive-thru vaccination at Marae rolling success

Bloomfield said today the rates of vaccination in Māori and Pacific people had doubled in the past few weeks.

His statement was borne out by car loads of people, who queued up at Auckland's first drive-thru vaccination site at a marae - an initiative helping to boost rates among Māori.

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Papakura Marae vaccination centre Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

With 35 staff at Papakura Marae, officials expected to vaccinate 500 people a day.

Papakura Marae chief executive Tony Kake said such vaccination sites were vital as these were places Māori knew and trusted.

"We really want to encourage our whanau Māori to get out to any of the vaccination centres, not only at Papakura Marae but anywhere across the nation," he said.

Changes to MIQ booking system

Applications for border MIQ were paused today to help officials safely house the growing number of people with Covid-19.

MIQ vouchers for people wanting to return from overseas won't be available for another couple of weeks. Emergency allocations were still being processed.

The fairness of the booking system had been questioned for several months. Hipkins told media today once it was operational again, changes would be made with a new pilot system introduced.

He said when large numbers of places were being made available these would be announced. He said when a room was being released there would be a 'virtual lobby'.

"The lobby means that people who enter the site within a specified window of time all have an equal chance of getting through to try to secure a room. Entrance to the site will be randomised, removing the need to be the fastest," the MIQ website said today.

Alert-level borders policed

Police saw good compliance at the Auckland border, although a small number of people have been turned around by police.

Police monitoring a checkpoint in Mercer, near Auckland's border with Waikato.

Police monitoring a checkpoint in Mercer, near Auckland's border with Waikato. Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

More than 3300 companies had been granted exemptions to travel the border, covering 23,500 employees.

Police said their five checkpoints south of Auckland were running smoothly, with limited issues.

Inspector Kay Lane said vehicle numbers had been fairly low and most people had the correct documentation ready to show officers.

Police however said two people flew out of Auckland without exemptions on Monday - one to Wellington and one to Dunedin.

Commissioner Andrew Coster said both people had been issued infringement notices - and police had been working with public health officials to manage the risk.

As of 5pm yesterday, officers had issued more than 2700 lockdown infringement notices nationwide, he said.

Furthermore, 139 people had been charged with offences, including failing to comply with the lockdown, breaching health laws and assaulting or threatening police.

Meanwhile, Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson told a Select Committee in Parliament he was "a fan" of iwi checkpoints at regional boundaries.

Jackson said he understood why people wanted to set up community checkpoints, but also appreciated they were contentious.

Jackson said he'd spoken to Deputy Police Commissioner Walley Haumaha about ways to cut some slack to those wanting to set up the checkpoints.

Domestic abuse help

Police urged anyone experiencing abuse or violence to seek support.

In week one of alert level 4, the number of family harm incidents reported to police increased by 3.9 percent, preliminary data showed today. In week two, it increased 6.2 percent.

"As we enter the third week of alert level restrictions, Police are urging anyone experiencing abuse or violence to seek support," Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.

"While there has been a small increase, family harm reports fluctuate due to a range of external factors and the data remains within the normal range," he added.

"If you feel scared, threatened or unsafe please call us on 111.

"If you cannot call, leave your bubble and ask a neighbour or passer-by to call for you.

"We also urge anyone with concerns about a loved one or friend to call us on their behalf - you could be saving their life."

Funeral home viewing changes

Under a change to alert level 4 grieving families were allowed viewings to farewell loved ones at funeral homes from today.

Whānau could visit registered funeral homes during Alert Level 4, but only if they were in the same bubble.

The Funeral Directors Association welcomed the government's response, after it made the proposal last week.

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