29 Sep 2021

Covid-19 update: 'We're still aiming to run this into the ground' - Hipkins on today's high case numbers

3:53 pm on 29 September 2021

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have given a briefing on the vaccine rollout and current cases.

Watch the update here:

Dr Bloomfield has confirmed there are 45 new community cases of Covid-19 today - all in Auckland.

Of these cases, 33 are known to be household or contacts of existing cases. All have been isolating at home or in quarantine during their infectious period, Bloomfield says.

He says many of today's cases were linked, and in some sense "they were expected".

Hipkins says the 45 new cases was a "sobering number". But because they were known cases, alert level decisions were made on many other factors.

"I would encourage people not to read too much into it. We're still aiming to run this into the ground."

Bloomfield says quite a proportion of the cases are among groups of people who are in transitional or emergency housing.

"Teams are working very hard with a range of agencies to support those people."

Bloomfield says everyone in Auckland must stay within their bubbles and wear face masks.

He says the Ministry of Health was asking workers in construction, hospitality and retail, who were working in level 3, to get two tests at least five days apart over the next couple of weeks, whether they had symptoms or not.

"I would like to emphasise, this testing is voluntary," he says.

Hipkins says at midnight the requirement will come into force for all border workers and roles where they might come into contact with Covid-19 to be vaccinated.

As at this morning, 98 percent of active border workers have been vaccinated with at least one dose and 93 percent are fully vaccinated, he says.

That includes 95 percent of port workers.

"I do want to remind anyone who works at the border but has yet to be vaccinated that they now have 24 hours until midnight tomorrow night to get their first vaccination if they wish to continue to work at the border," Hipkins says.

Vaccine rollout update

Bloomfield says 80 percent of the eligible population in Canterbury has now had its first dose of the vaccine. He says by Christmas most Cantabarians would be fully vaccinated.

"Keep up the good work Canterbury," Bloomfield says.

Yesterday, 44,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were administered.

Nationally, 78 percent of the eligible population - 12 years and over - has had their first dose of the vaccine, Hipkins says.

Nearly half of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated.

Hipkins says 55 percent of Māori have had their first dose, 29 percent their second.

Amongst Pasifika, 71 percent have had their first dose, 40 percent their second.

"The 92 percent of over 65s deserve a particular shout-out for getting their first dose, 82 percent have had their second," Hipkins says.

For those aged between 40 and 64, now 82 percent have had their first dose and 50 percent their second.

In Auckland, 1,868,161 doses have been administered; 682,000 people have had both their doses.

New MIQ facility

On MIQ facilities, Hipkins says Cabinet has now formally signed off the funding for a new facility - the Elms hotel in Christchurch. Work is underway to get that stood up as quickly as possible, he says.

The Elms will add another 85 rooms to the MIQ network.

'Covid for Christmas'

Hipkins says he has not read National's plan for the pandemic in full yet.

"It's clear that the National Party want to throw open the borders, have hundreds of thousands of people coming in. Therefore, one can conclude that the biggest promise they're making at the moment is that they're willing for Kiwis to get Covid for Christmas.

"The reality here is that they haven't provided any modelling for the number of Covid-19 cases that they would be willing to tolerate or what they would do in certain scenarios because it would almost certainly result in significant numbers of cases in the community. They've given no indication of what they would do around managing that."

Earlier today, National released its plan to reopen New Zealand aiming for "vigorous suppression" of Covid-19, while accepting that elimination of the Delta variant and other strains like it may not be possible.

It proposes 10 actions for boosting New Zealand's response - including a dedicated agency based in Auckland and purpose-built quarantine facilities - a 70-75 percent vaccination target for ending lockdowns and an 85-90 percent vaccination target for reopening to the world.

Self-isolation pilot

The government is looking for 150 participants for its self-isolation pilot across Auckland and Christchurch and expressions of interest open tomorrow morning.

Hipkins says both locations have international airports but also established MIQ systems and support networks that have been set up for regular international arrivals.

People will be monitored through smartphone technology and regular random phone calls to verify compliance will be made, Hipkins said.

They will also be charged $1000 to cover basic costs like transport and the other associated costs with the pilot, he said.

"Participants will have to self-isolate for 14 days in an approved residence for this pilot. It has to be a standalone residence, have no shared ventilation system and be within 50km of either Auckland or Christchurch airport by road.

"It must also have cellular coverage, no visitors will be allowed on those premises while the people are isolating aside from medical staff for testing purposes or those attending to someone in an emergency situation like a fire or ambulance people or tradespeople if there are critical things that endanger the health and safety of people isolating."

Those isolating will need to provide their own food and supplies; contactless deliveries are allowed.

Returnees will have to have a negative pre-departure test as they will be screened and tested on arrival in New Zealand.

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