22 Feb 2021

Cabinet to review Auckland's Covid-19 alert level today

6:50 am on 22 February 2021

Cabinet will this afternoon decide if Auckland can join the rest of the country at alert level 1.

AUCKLAND, NZ - MAY 29:Traffic on Queen street with the Skytower in the background on May 29 2013.It's a major commercial thoroughfare in the Auckland CBD, New Zealand's main population center.

Cabinet will decide if Auckland can move to alert level 1 this afternoon. Photo: 123rf.com

Their decision will be announced by the prime minister in Christchurch at 3pm.

The region was plunged into a level 3 lockdown last Monday, following the discovery of three cases of Covid-19 in Papatoetoe.

Four others in the community have since tested positive for the virus, but are all either close contacts of the original cases or household contacts linked to the original cases.

As of Sunday, 125 close contacts have tested negative with three tests relating to a medical centre still outstanding.

The Ministry of Health, however, said it is considered a low-risk exposure event.

There are encouraging signs Auckland will move to alert level 1, with no new community cases identified over the weekend.

Jacinda Ardern last week said Auckland should be in a position to shift back down to alert level 1 if there are no cases of Covid-19 that are not linked to the existing outbreak discovered in the community.

"There is every chance we will find further cases. While our expectation is that these will be linked to our current cases we still need Aucklanders to follow the level 2 rules ... so we can get the extra assurance we need to get back to level 1 as soon as possible next week," Ardern said.

Cabinet ministers will also today review the current requirement for masks to be worn on public transport at the lowest alert level nationwide.

A measure Ardern said was "out of an abundance of caution".

Cabinet would likely consider whether to make that a permanent measure down the track, but Ardern said she did not want to pre-empt any decision.

Auckland businesses hoping for return to level 1

Auckland businesses are crying out for a return to normality, as the city enters its second week under alert level 2 restrictions.

Harmen, who works at a local kebab shop, said the business was "really down", and had been shutting its doors as many as five hours earlier than it normally would over the weekend.

"Hopefully we get over this pandemic, it's not really good for our business."

Several businesses spoken to said they were hopeful the city would return to level 1.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said the change would help alleviate "some pretty dire stories" that she had heard from businesses over the past week. "We've got a great line-up of events coming up, and we really want to be at level 1 for that."

Still, a reduction in alert levels will mean little respite for some.

Damon from clothing store Merii said his business largely catered to overseas tourists, and he did not expect sales to improve until after borders reopened. He added that he had tried to negotiate a rent reduction due to the recent restrictions, but his building manager refused to budge.

"Even for level 1, I think [there is] not too much hope."

For taxi driver Paul, business has also dried up over the past few days. But he said the pandemic was just one of a litany of problems facing his industry, including competition from Uber that would not be solved by lifting Covid restrictions.

"There is not much options in the cities for the taxis."

Papatoetoe High School to reopen

Auckland's Papatoetoe High School will reopen today, however the 31 close contacts of the recent Covid-19 community cases will be asked to stay home, for now.

The South Auckland school has been shut for the past week, where two students are among the seven cases in the latest community outbreak.

The Ministry of Health says nearly 1400 "casual plus" contacts at the school have tested negative, with 17 results still to come.

Principal Vaughan Couillault said the school has asked a small number students to be tested again before returning.

There are only three more outstanding test results remaining for the close contacts in the cluster, which relate to people at a medical clinic.

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