Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Sunday October 10. Toby Manhire is on deck today. Our coverage of Covid-19 depends on support from Members. Join us here.
The day in sum
- 60 new community cases of Covid were recorded, the highest since September 1. Three were in Waikato and one, first reported last night, in the Bay of Plenty, with the rest in Auckland.
- A total of 81,831 vaccine doses were administered yesterday; in Auckland, 86% of those eligible have had at least one dose, with 61% fully vaccinated.
- Four new cases linked to North Shore Hospital were reported: two people who visited ED and a dialysis unit patient and a staff member.
- The person who travelled with the woman who tested positive after travelling around Northland had “been contacted but not yet located”, according to the Ministry of Health.
- Jacinda Ardern completed a four-day vaccine-urging tour of the eastern North Island, ahead of tomorrow’s cabinet decision on alert levels.
4.45pm: North Shore Hospital staffer tests positive
A staff member at North Shore Hospital’s dialysis unit has tested positive for Covid-19. It follows the announcement today (see 1.10pm) that a person being treated at the unit returned a positive test. The person “was appropriately screened before coming to the unit and again on arrival at the unit. The person became unwell during treatment and was swabbed and subsequently tested positive.” Staff were informed this afternoon in an email.
The ministry said the unit was yesterday closed temporarily for a deep clean and others who were at the unit at the same time were being contacted “to provide advice around isolation and testing”.
2pm: Police charge 17 people for level three breaches
Police have charged 17 people with 18 offences for breaches under level three rules in Auckland, Waikato and Northland, according to a statement on compliance levels. Thirteen of the charges were for failing to comply with the Covid-19 order, two were for failure to comply with direction/prohibition/restriction, one was a Health Act breach and two were for assaulting, threatening or obstructing an officer.
Across the same time period, 24 people were formally warned, while a total of 3,100 105-online breach notifications were received in relation to perceived breaches of level three rules.
1.30pm: Today’s key numbers
Here are the charts. The only one that isn’t painful to look at is the vaccination graph. Hopefully it can before long knock the others on the head.
1.10pm: Sixty community cases; updates on Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Northland cases
There are 60 new cases of Covid-19 detected in the community in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has reported; 56 are in Auckland, three in Waikato and one in the Bay of Plenty. It is the highest daily case count since September 1.
The three new Waikato cases are linked to the initial Hamilton East case.
The Bay of Plenty case is the person who was reported last night. Of the Auckland cases, 37 have known links to existing cases (including 22 household contacts) and 17 remain under investigation.
Twenty-nine people are in hospital with Covid-19. Twelve are at Middlemore Hospital, 11 Auckland Hospital, four at North Shore Hospital and one in each at Waikato and Palmerston North. Seven of those are in ICU. The Palmerston North case is the unvaccinated truck driver from Auckland who had been isolating on hospital grounds. He was transferred to hospital on Friday “and is currently in isolation receiving treatment”.
There are currently 438 “active cases” in the delta community outbreak. All are in Auckland, but for 31 in Waikato, one in Bay of Plenty and one in Manawatu.
Yesterday saw 81,831 shots administered. Of these 18,301 were first doses and 65,530 second doses. We’re closing in on 3.5 million having had a full dose: 3,438,289 to be precise. The number fully vaccinated is 2,351,485.
In Auckland, 1,237,408 people, or 86% of those eligible, have had at least one dose, with 61% fully vaccinated.
Auckland case who travelled to Northland
The woman who travelled to Northland using falsified documentation, returned a weak positive in Whangārei then a confirmed positive back in Auckland, remains in a quarantine facility. The second woman who travelled with her “has been contacted but not yet located”, according to the ministry.
“Public health staff continue to work closely with the person to determine any locations of interest or exposure events associated with the case. Public Health staff are also working closely with Police to identify possible locations or areas of interest. As these become available they will be added to the ministry’s website as quickly as possible. We ask people to check these regularly, especially if you have visited, or live in Auckland, Waikato or Northland. Anyone in Northland should remain vigilant for symptoms, particularly anyone who has visited a location of interest or been in an area of interest at the times specified should get tested and isolate until they receive the result.”
Northland remains in level three.
North Shore Hospital cases
Two patients who had previously tested positive to Covid-19 and were awaiting transfer to a quarantine facility were taken to the hospital’s emergency department for clinical assessment this morning to see whether they need hospital level care, reports the ministry.
Another person receiving treatment at North Shore hospital dialysis unit yesterday also tested positive for Covid-19. That person “was appropriately screened before coming to the unit and again on arrival at the unit. The person became unwell during treatment and was swabbed and subsequently tested positive.” The unit was closed temporarily yesterday deep cleaning.
Health authorities are following up with other people who were receiving services in the unit at the same time “to provide advice around isolation and testing”.
Bay of Plenty
The public health assessment remains that “there is low risk of any further spread from this case”. Test results suggest the infection is in its early stages. The person’s full vaccination, combined with regular testing, use of the Covid app and rapid public health follow up with family members mean that authorities are confident undetected spread is unlikely.
“Katikati residents and visitors since Wednesday 6 October are asked to keep checking the locations of interest page on the Ministry of Health website and follow the advice given.”
The three new in Waikato are linked to known cases.
The ministry’s advice is as follows: “Interviews are continuing to determine any further contacts or locations of interest. There are pop up testing sites operating today at Claudelands and Raglan. The existing testing centre at Founders Theatre is also open. The DHB reports 3,646 swabs were taken yesterday. Further details on exact locations and hours of testing sites are available on the Healthpoint and Waikato DHB sites. The Ministry of Health urges anyone in the Waikato with any symptoms that could be Covid-19 to get a test.”
There were 7,017 vaccines administered in Waikato yesterday. Alert levels will be reviewed again on Monday.
12.45pm: New locations of interest
A bunch of new locations of interest have been listed. In Katikati, Bay of Plenty, those include the Good Life Opportunity Shop, Hammer Hardware Katikati, and the Waipuna Hospice Shop.
And in Auckland: Devonport Pharmacy, Daily Bread Belmont, Harvey Norman Wairau Park, McDonald’s Akoranga Drive in Northcote, McDonald’s Wairau Road, Puke Hire (Manukau), and Southern Line Train.
See all the locations of interest on our map here.
11.45am: Michael Baker calls for regional strategic approach with tighter internal borders
If reassurance is provided by contact tracing, testing levels and wastewater analysis, there is potential for cabinet to decide tomorrow to move the affected areas in Waikato down from level three, epidemiologist Michael Baker has told RNZ. It was too early to be sure about Northland, but there was “no opportunity to go down the alert levels in Auckland”, with case trends indicating a reproduction rate above 1.
The challenge is to “try incredibly hard over the next few weeks, especially in Auckland, to try to push down the reproduction rate … vaccinations are our number one defence.”
Auckland needs to “avoid following the same trajectory of Victoria”, he said. That would mean around 500 cases a day in Auckland, “potentially overwhelming the [health] system”.
Muddled government communications and media commentary that “filled the void” had left widespread confusion around the strategy being pursued in New Zealand, he said. It would help to clarify that while Auckland is now in suppression mode, the rest of the country could continue in pursuit of elimination. “A regional approach could be very valuable for New Zealand to minimise the number of cases and deaths over the next two months while we get vaccinations up to the levels we need,” he said, pointing to Australia and its state differences as an example.
Baker wrote with Otago University colleagues on this proposal and the strengthened internal borders it would entail, in a blog post published yesterday.
11am: Singapore opening borders despite record case numbers
With a population of around 5.5 million and a widely lauded pandemic response that has seen low loss of life, Singapore often attracts comparisons with New Zealand in its Covid response. Despite recent tightening of domestic restrictions, including a limitation on gatherings to two people and requirements to work from home, the island state has just announced plans to open its borders.
From October 19 people from eight countries including the US and the UK who can show they’re fully vaccinated will be entitled to quarantine-free arrival.
In a speech yesterday prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore could expect a surge in cases, but that a “new normal” and easing of domestic restrictions was within reach in three to six months. “Let us go about our daily activities as normally as possible, taking necessary precautions,” he said. “We should respect Covid-19, but we must not be paralysed by fear.
Despite having around 83% of the population vaccinated and ongoing restrictions, Singapore reported a record case count yesterday: 3,703 new infections and 11 new deaths. There are 1,569 people in hospital in Singapore with Covid-19. Of those, 40 are in ICU and 302 cases requiring ventilation.
9.15am: Willie Jackson on meeting with gangs
Māori development minister Willie Jackson joined deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha on Friday in a hui with “some of the major gangs in the country” to discuss vaccination plans, Jackson has told Q+A on TVNZ. The delta outbreak in Auckland and the Waikato has included a number of positive cases among gangs, and recent days have seen a flurry of unsubstantiated rumours, including from a former deputy prime minister, about gangs’ role in the spread of the virus.
Jackson rejected criticisms. “We’ve got a national public health crisis. Someone’s got to engage with the gangs … I’ll be working every day to try to get a strategy in place so we can hopefully get hundreds vaccinated next week.” Achieving vaccination within gangs and their associates didn’t mean endorsing their activities, he said. “We can’t play politics here. We’ve got to look after the safety of all kiwis.” As to providing financial support, he said: “We’ll look at that. Obviously we’ll try to offer some support, but I can tell you now no dollars will be coming from me.”
Asked whether the easing of restrictions in Auckland would be happening were the entire population at Māori rates of vaccination, 59% of those eligible, Jackson echoed the answer Covid response minister gave to the same question a few days ago. “I can’t speculate in terms of that.” Would he personally vote to ease restrictions were that the case? “Quite possibly, quite possibly. We’re all participating in those decisions,” he said.
Jackson conceded that “yes, we might have had a rough week”, but: “On the ground, New Zealanders are happy, New Zealanders are pleased with the response.”
7am: What to expect today
There is no press conference on the schedule at this point. We’re expecting the latest Covid-19 case numbers and vaccination updates in a media release at 1pm or so.
Jacinda Ardern is continuing today her whistlestop vaccination tour, before returning to Wellington ahead of tomorrow’s cabinet meeting where decisions will be made on alert levels for a country currently chopped into three bits of level three and the rest in level two. To be more specific:
Northland is now in level three. Ministers decided to put the region into lockdown after a positive test from someone who had visited using falsified documents, together with another person who has evaded authorities. The pair journeyed from Auckland to Whangārei and on to Paihia; the positive case has not been cooperative in dealings with contact tracers.
Parts of Waikato are in level three. The northwest of the region, including Waitomo district, Hamilton city and Hamilton airport, are in lockdown following a string of positive tests.
Auckland is in level three, too, but: Despite being the fountainhead of the delta outbreak, the country’s biggest population centre has fewer restrictions than the short-sharp-level-three territories above and below. Auckland is in level three, step one.
There were 34 new community cases of Covid-19, including three in Waikato. Of those, 11 were not as of 1pm linked. A good day for vaccinations, with 85,757 in total, the vast majority second doses.
A positive case in Bay of Plenty was reported last night by the Ministry of Health. It’s judged low risk at this point, as the person, who was in the process of moving from Pukekohe to an area near Katikati, was double-vaxed and tested regularly.
Winston Peters made a bunch of allegations on Newshub Nation about the case that travelled to Northland, whose actions have led to the region being thrown into lockdown. The assertions by the former deputy prime minister sounded to me a lot like a person scrolling through a welter of cooked gossip on Facebook and shouting, “Have you seen this shit??!” to someone in the next room. But we’ll no doubt find out more before long.
A snapshot of Aotearoa versus Covid is in the three charts below. You can view more visualisations that tell the story here.