23 Aug 2021

Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Level 4 lockdown extended for New Zealand

7:00 pm on 23 August 2021

Cabinet has decided all of New Zealand will remain in level 4 for an additional four days, until 11.59pm 27 August; Auckland will remain in level 4 until 11.59pm 31 August.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says six days into the outbreak, the government has identified the source of the outbreak as a returnee from NSW who was at the Crowne Plaza before being transferred to quarantine at the Jet Park.

"We'll continue with that investigation and update you as we go."

Geographic Location of Contacts - this map is correct as of 0800hrs 23 August 2021.

A map of where the known contacts of the current outbreak are. Photo: Supplied

She says testing during the six-day period is a record "by quite some way", and accounts for about 3 percent of the population.

Some 108,000 tests have been taken in Auckland, she says, and thanks those who waited in queues, saying with additional testing centres being stood up wait times are starting to reduce.

"With Delta, more certainty is needed," she says, which is why such a quick lockdown was important.

She says Delta got a headstart against New Zealand before the lockdown.

"Early estimate suggest that number may be six or higher, you may recall from previous outbreaks that number needs to be less than one in order for the virus to be stamped out, so we have some way to go yet."

She says known contacts are spread across all of New Zealand, and there may be more contacts that are not known.

Cabinet has decided all of New Zealand will remain at level 4 for an additional four days, until 11.59pm, Friday 27 August.

She says these settings will be reviewed on Friday.

She says we know enough that Auckland will continue to be the main location of the outbreak, and will remain in alert level 4 until 11.59pm on Tuesday 31 August. That setting will be reviewed next Monday.

"Delta has changed the rules of the game, but we have changed our approach too, we've hardened our alert levels, widened our contact tracing, required more mask wearing and we are testing more people. It is absolutely possible to get on top of this, we just need to keep it up and ensure that we're not in restrictions any longer than we need to be."

She says people who are not essential workers should not leave home unless they are getting some fresh air once a day.

People should also remember that some people have disabilities and are not able to wear a mask, and asks people to be kind.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, followed by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield

Photo: Stuff / Robert Kitchin

She says the extra time by delaying the drop in alert levels gives New Zealand additional data and information and time to test.

Ardern says Aucklanders will know that we have not reached the peak of the outbreak yet.

Dr Bloomfield says this Friday will be 14 days from the exposure events they are particularly concerned about.

Ardern says the extension is still within the "short and sharp" and "go hard and early" strategy.

Dr Bloomfield says the advice he provided to Cabinet is what Cabinet has agreed to - extending level 4 to Friday and extending Auckland's longer.

He says the picture in Wellington is reassuring because the links to the outbreak are clear.

"The student who travelled here to Wellington was in a hall of residence in Auckland, and that hall of residence about 500 students have now dispersed around the country, and so that's a very important group that we're following up."

Ardern says while a person-to-person link has not always immediately been established when health officials are interviewing new cases, location links are very quickly identified, which fits with the Delta variant.

Crowne Plaza update

She says at the Crowne Plaza, the person in question went to the atrium and the majority of people who were nearby have been located and tested, just two more are being sought.

"Open mind on all options," Dr Bloomfield says.

Three of the people outside the lobby tested negative, Ardern says, one is in the process of getting a test, and there are the two who have not yet been found.

Bloomfield says additional call centre capacity has been brought on today.

Ardern says additional capacity is also being brought on for various government departments.

She says the public walkway at the Crowne Plaza has not been established to have been a problem. She says it has barriers between, and ventilation, and has been assessed by infection control experts, but "we've ruled nothing in or out right now".

Dr Bloomfield says whenever a concern is found in a single managed isolation facility, all other MIQ facilities are also looked at for the same issue.

Ardern says as yet what precisely the issue is has not yet been established. Dr Bloomfield says the MIQ facility is still open because there are still people there but there are not new intakes at the Crowne Plaza.

Bloomfield says the next three or four days, in particular, will show whether there is any ongoing transmission in Wellington or Coromandel.

He says the single event with the most number of cases is the Assembly of God church event. He says it's not surprising considering it's an event several hours long that includes things like singing.

Ardern says the government is continuing to plan for boundary options for once Cabinet decides to move to a regional approach to containing the outbreak.

Bloomfield says the vast majority of close contacts who have not yet been contacted are those that have been identified today and yesterday.

Ardern says off the top of her head about 11 of the people who have tested positive so far had been vaccinated.


Bloomfield says as of 9am, seven of the cases from the outbreak are in hospital, none in the ICU. He says one person with Covid-19 is in ICU and that is the person who was flown here from Fiji.

He says engagement with church leaders is "the way to go" and there was a zoom call last night with community leaders and leaders of the church.

'Elimination is the strategy'

Ardern says a week ago the forum with Professor Skegg outlined what New Zealand's strategy might look like, and going through into next year the government will continue to assess and reassess how it approaches Covid-19, but for now "everyone is in agreement, elimination is the strategy".

Bloomfield says delays for testing are largely in Auckland, because of high demand. He says a lot more tests have been able to be processed more quickly in this outbreak.

Ardern says Australia allowing Covid-19 to circulate while having high levels of vaccination is not compatible with New Zealand opening back up.

Bloomfield says from what he's seen none of the cases from the outbreak were Māori, but over 50 percent of the cases are Pacific people. Ardern says this is because of where the outbreak has affected.

Ardern says she has not heard of an instance where contacts have not been home when contacted by tracers. She says it is very heartening to see a lack of cases who have been infectious in the community, compared to what has been seen in New South Wales.

Bloomfield says all the DHBs have been training parts of their workforce to care for and monitor people who are on ventilation support since last March.

Parliament suspended

Ardern says on the advice of the Director-General of Health, Parliament will be suspended for a week.

"While of course we want to ensure that representatives from across the house have the ability to scrutinise the government at this time, physically bringing MPs from across the country to Parliament does pose risk."

She says ministers will be available to appear before select committees.

"These committees will continue to meet virtually, that will allow us to balance safety and scrutiny. We'll use the next week to see if there are other enhancements we can make. I would add that these types of alternative arrangements are common throughout the world as other Parliaments manage outbreaks in their countries also."

Ardern says it is about finding a balance between safety and scrutiny.

"We did not in level 4 last time have Parliament convene, we found alternative measures to allow that scrutiny to occur in a virtual environment and we're doing that again. One of the enhancements is that rather than having one committee we're having multiple committees so that more MPs can access that process."

She says the disruption to Parliament had been minimal in comparison to other countries.

Over the weekend, the government also announced moves to make record-keeping, such as using the Covid Tracer app, mandatory, although the rules have left businesses confused over which areas are covered.

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