20 Sep 2021

PM on Cabinet's alert level decision

6:27 pm on 20 September 2021

Auckland will move to alert level 3 from 11.59pm on Tuesday night, and stay in level 3 for at least two weeks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

Watch the announcement here:

The rest of the country will remain in level 2, but gatherings will be increased from 50 to 100.

Meanwhile, part of northern Waikato has been issued a section 70 order, requiring people who live or work there to stay at home.

"We are not stepping out of level 4 because the job is done, but nor are we moving because we don't think we can achieve the goal of stamping out Covid-19 - we are moving because level 3 still provides a cautious approach while we continue to stamp out Covid-19," Ardern said.

"It means staying in your bubble, it means contactless transactions and keeping your distance. It means we say thank you to Auckland for their tireless work, and we collectively keep going."

There are 22 new cases today, the majority of them household or known contacts. Five are unlinked, and three of those are within one family, and there is a tentative link for that family, Ardern said.

Three of the new cases are in Whakatīwai but are being counted in the Auckland total. Ardern said testing so far has included household contacts, corrections staff, police staff, court staff, and 300 swabs have already been taken in the small community.

"We do want to make sure we are keeping the community safe," she said.

Director of General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he was issuing a section 70 order requiring people who live or work in the area around Mangatangi, in northern Waikato, to stay at home. Ardern said it was effectively a "bespoke level 4".

Bloomfield said the order was for people living in an area north of SH2 centred on Mangatangi.

"That will effectively extend the road boundary to the east of Maramarua ... and also to the southeast of Miranda on the Firth of Thames."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces Auckland will move to alert level 3 at 11.59pm on 21 September - five weeks after the city went into lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces Auckland will move to alert level 3 at 11.59pm on 21 September - five weeks after the city went into lockdown Photo: Pool / Robert Kitchin / Stuff

Officials confident there is no widespread transmission

Ardern said level 4 had been tough but it had also made a difference.

Almost all cases of the last 14 days have either been household or known contacts, and wastewater testing suggests there is no significant undetected transmission.

There has not been widespread clusters around workplaces, and of the cases where a link has been established, none has resulted from people accessing essential services.

Protections are still in place in level 3, she said.

"That remains critical and we ask everyone to play their part... we're moving now because the advice we have is we don't have widespread transmission across Auckland, if everyone continues to play their part we can stamp it out."

Bloomfield said the ministry is confident there is not widespread undetected transmission. The difference with level 3 this time is it comes with high and increasing levels of vaccination, he said.

Ardern reminded people that in level 3 they can make minor changes to bubbles such as bringing in an elderly relative who is not part of another bubble, but should not visit friends or break bubbles.

"Once in a household everyone is at risk of getting Detla, so if you break your bubble, know that the consequence may be spreading Covid back into your house to your loved ones," Ardern said.

Schools in level 3 are largely closed. Cabinet has made the decision to make masks mandatory at high schools at alert level 3, Ardern said.

People attending an essential service must also wear a mask, and people are encouraged to do so whenever they leave their home.

Aucklanders aged over 65 and not vaccinated asked to stay at home

People over 65 in Auckland should stay home until they have been vaccinated, she said.

"We have been doing direct outreach to all our over-65s who haven't had their first dose yet in Auckland. That amounts to about 23,000 people.

"Last week a letter was sent to those over-65s who we had details for. Today we're commencing an outbound call campaign... these will average about 8000 calls a day."

People with a booking in the future can bring it forward, she said, adding pharmacies are offering delivery services, as are supermarkets.

Ardern said the government will delve into a bit more detail this week about what the modelling is showing in terms of how much vaccination is required, and what effect that can have on restrictions.

Bloomfield said Aucklanders have and will continue to support the effort, and "secondly, we will see ongoing vaccination in Auckland and we're very close to hitting 80 percent of people in Tāmaki Makaurau who've had a first dose and of course our aim now is to intensify our efforts, to get that even higher as quickly as possible."

Bloomfield said the modelling suggests Auckland can get to 90 percent of eligible people vaccinated by early October.

People crossing boundary for personal reasons now required to be tested

Bloomfield said the r value is believed to still be "well below one".

The ministry is hoping to be able to publish how many cases is expected each day, based on the size of the families involved and the conversion rate, he said.

Ardern said despite best efforts, there are still sometimes people using legitimate means to cross boundaries, which is part of why the higher alert levels is needed in the rest of the country.

"We're not a country where you can easily build a wall around one part of our country, we're a very mobile nation and we've done everything we can to try and restrict that movement, but you will have seen with the case we had where someone was a truck driver, a legitimate purpose, where they were infected with Covid."

People travelling over the boundary for personal reasons are now being required to carry evidence of having taken a test within the last seven days. There are exemptions available through the Ministry of Health.

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