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BusinessAugust 28, 2021

Live updates, August 28: Mountain bikers cautioned; 82 new delta cases takes total to 429


All the latest news lines as New Zealand enters its second delta lockdown weekend. Send your thoughts, tips and pics to Our coverage of the Covid-19 story is funded by Spinoff Members. Your support makes a real difference. 

What you need to know

  • Today 82 new cases in the community were reported, bringing the total to 429.
  • Almost 90,000 vaccination doses were received yesterday.
  • Chris Bishop has lost the role of shadow leader of the house in a front-bench reshuffle from Judith Collins.
  • Police said they were “extremely disappointed” to find 50 or more people pedalling about in a mountain bike park.
  • We still don’t know how many of the most recent cases were infectious in the community.

5.40pm: 73 essential workers have tested positive

Of the 429 cases in the community outbreak, 73 of them, or around 17%, are essential workers, the Ministry of Health has told Newshub’s Connor Whitten.

He’s also learned that 55% of cases detected since lockdown were infectious in the community, though Health has been unable to tell him more how many of those took place in level four; only that “most” cases were caught before level four began. The reason for the ambiguity (see 5.30pm) appears to be because the ministry just doesn’t know. According to a source who has worked with ministry the data is returned by Public Health Units to the ministry in open text form, so takes some time to collect and formulate.

5.30pm: On that ‘infected in the community’ question

Further to my note earlier (10.25am) on how many cases could be considered “infectious in the community” during level four, the Ministry of Health has responded to my query, though it doesn’t do much to clear it up.

My question: How many of the cases reported in the last three days were infectious in the community?

Unfortunately they seem not to have the answer to that. Instead, the response was this: “From August 24 to August 27, the number of cases detected who have exposure events attributed to them is 73. However many of these will have occurred before alert level four. We have confirmed household links for 28% of our overall cases at this stage. It’s important to note that case investigations are continuing and these numbers are expected to change.”

Meanwhile this is modeller Shaun Hendy, speaking to the New Zealand Herald: “It does seem like the growth in cases is coming from known clusters, that is a positive. While it is still in known clusters, you can’t say it’s out of control.” But: “If it doesn’t plateau over the next few days then we may need to be thinking about tightening alert level four restrictions. The real worry is if we continue to see spread through businesses that are operating.

4.40pm: New cases top 1,000 again in NSW

Another record day for New South Wales, with 1,035 community cases reported. There was some good news, though: Friday also marked a record day for vaccinations, with 156,165 received. Victoria recorded 64 new positive cases and ACT 26.

4.15pm: The numbers in chart form

There’s been much talk of when we reached the “peak”. As the numbers below show, they’ve grown daily since the lockdown began. The hope is those will level off in the coming days.

3.45pm: More than 50 mountain bikers on trail in Queenstown; compliance notices top 1,500

Police called to attend a crash at the mountain bike loop in Fernhill, Queenstown, were "extremely disappointed" to encounter an estimated 50 or more bikers on the track yesterday, according to police commissioner Andrew Coster. "Due to where the crash happened, it took two hours, a 4WD and several Police and ambulance staff to remove the injured woman from the site. The woman had to be transported to Dunedin Hospital via helicopter. Police will be speaking to the biker at a later date and enforcement action for breaching restrictions will be considered. The other mountain bikers on the track were educated on alert level four rules."

Despite the instance, Coster said police were on the whole "pleased with compliance".

Since level four kicked in, 93 people had been charged with 99 offences as of 5pm yesterday. The arrests were "primarily the result of protest activity in the first few days of alert level four and other intentional behaviour in breach of the restrictions". Of the 99 charges filed, 65 are for failing to comply with the Covid-19 order; 21 for failure to comply with direction/prohibition/restriction, 11 for Health Act breaches, and two for assault or threatening/Hindering/obstructing an officer. There have been 256 formal warnings issued.

The same period saw 1594 infringement notices issued, the vast majority for "failing to remain at current home or residence". Police have now received a total of 11,103 online breach notifications as well as 2,053 breach complaints to the 105-phone line.

There is no suggestion that former health minister David Clark was among the mountain bikers, by the way. According to the ODT this morning, he is enjoying a "much less fraught" lockdown this time around.

2.20pm: The total cases by age

There are now 251 people who have been infected in the community outbreak who are under the age of 30.

1.18pm: 82 new cases brings total to 429

On day 11 of lockdown, there are 82 new cases of Covid-19 in the community in New Zealand. All are in Auckland. The total in the delta outbreak in the community now sits at 429, with 415 in Auckland and 14 in Wellington. Twenty-five people are in hospital – two are in ICU

The Ministry of Health reports that 376 of the cases have been "clearly epidemiologically-linked to another case or sub-cluster". That leaves 53 for which links are yet to be fully established. ESR has now run whole genome sequencing from "around 300" community cases. All are genomically linked to the current outbreak.

As of 9am today, 31,757 individual contacts have been identified and 81% have had a test; "most others are not yet due for a test," reports the ministry. Yesterday, 36,418 tests were processed across New Zealand. Auckland accounted for about 14,500 of those.

There are now seven epidemiologically-linked subclusters identified. The two largest clusters are the Birkdale Social Network cluster associated with Case A (64 confirmed cases), and the Mangere church cluster (197 confirmed cases).

Of these 82 new cases, 62 are Pacific peoples, five are Asian, four are European, two are Māori , one is Middle Eastern/Latin American/African, and the ethnicity of eight is unknown.

There is one new case in a recent returnee in a managed isolation facility.

Amberlea Home and Hospital Care Facility, Algie’s Bay

Some encouraging news here: After a positive test in Warkworth was confirmed in someone who had worked two shifts Amberlea’s dementia ward while unknowingly infectious, all patients in the ward have been tested. Of the 13 swabs taken, 12 have returned negative results, and the remaining test is expected back today. The worker is believed to be fully vaccinated and was following PPE protocols.

Covid-19 vaccine update

Yesterday 89,316 vaccines were administered, the second biggest daily total to date. Of these 65,011 were first doses and 24,305 were second doses. The total number of doses received now is 3.2 million, made up of 2.1 million first doses and 1.1 million second doses.

The ministry reports that more than 102,000 Māori have received both doses and more than 78,000 have had one. More than 120,000 doses first doses have been administered to Pacific peoples. Of these, more than 69,000 have also received their second doses.

Canterbury vaccine incident

The ministry has also provided some information about an error at a vaccination centre in the Canterbury DHB area earlier this month which "means that 13 people may have received a lower dose of the Covid-19 vaccine than intended". It first came to attention after reporting of an error at Highbrook that may have seen five people receive only saline, without the vaccine component.

"No patient harm would have resulted from this occurrence, but we acknowledge this would be concerning for the people involved," says the ministry. "Twelve of the group have been contacted and are booked in for another dose of the vaccine. A range of methods is being used to contact the remaining person. They are also booked in to receive their second dose. Incidents of this nature are not common but it is important each is reported and acted on. DHBs and healthcare providers have systems in place to detect them when they do, including clinical oversight and strong quality assurance processes." The provider would be "implementing improvements and additional training for staff".

11.55am: Speaker slaps down Act over return of parliament

Last night the parliamentary business select committee met to discuss a resumption of parliament. National and Act rejected proposals for virtual sitting of the house of representatives under levels three and four.

The Act Party has come out of the traps this morning with a press release trumpeting "Democracy wins", welcoming the "decision that a socially distanced parliament will go ahead next week". David Seymour added: “Any ACT MPs who attend next week will already be in Wellington, be double vaccinated, masked, and taking all precautions ... Transparency and accountability are needed now more than ever and ACT welcomes the decision for parliament to sit.”

But wait. The speaker of the house, Trevor Mallard, has contradicted that account. "I have seen a media release from the Act Party suggesting that the business committee decided that the house would sit this week. It did not. It can’t override the [standing orders] which allow the PM (who already has DG Health advice) to advise the speaker to defer sitting," he said on Twitter. "The only decision taken was that while any part of the country is at level three or four there will be no proxy voting limits – so that there is no need for MPs to travel from those areas."

The prime minister is yet to say whether parliament will be deferred again in the coming week, and so far she has resisted calls to revive the Epidemic Response Committee.

11.30am: New locations of interest

New locations of interest have slowed to a trickle, but they're still coming. The latest update includes a childcare centre in Manurewa and new potential exposure times at the AUT city campus, where several students have tested positive as part of the outbreak. All the new listings are from August 17, and the simplest way to view them is via Harkanwal Singh's maps here.

10.25am: How many of NZ's recent cases were infectious in the community?

The short answer: we don't know. As anyone who has been following the reports of case numbers in Australia will know, it has become the norm to look not just for overall case numbers but also the number that were infectious in the community. Critical to New Zealand's prospects of emerging from lockdowns is not just stamping out the cases that were circulating before the measures came into force but also whether or not the delta strain, which is roughly twice as infectious as the virus we tackled in the last outbreaks, is being transmitted among those who are performing essential services and working in the community in lockdown.

There are about 50 locations of interest for dates after the lockdown kicked in on Wednesday August 18. But we don't know whether there was transmission at that locations. The most recent date listed is Tuesday August 24, for which there are two locations, a supermarket and a dairy. The animation below show an encouraging dwindling of locations of interest. But remember: some potential exposure locations, including workplaces where there's a known list of anyone present, will not be listed publicly.

There have been reports that at least three essential workers have been infected since lockdown. On Newstalk ZB last night, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins was asked for a number, which he was unable to provide. "We are aware there are some," he said. When asked if it could be as high as two dozen, he said it was certainly lower than that. I've sent a note to the Ministry of Health asking how many of the cases reported in the last three days were infectious in the community; I'll let you know if I get a response.

9.30am: Bishop loses leader of house role in National reshuffle

Chris Bishop has been replaced as shadow leader of the house, with Michael Woodhouse taking the role heading the opposition business in the House of Representatives. The change was made "to enable Mr Bishop to focus solely on his critical role as National’s spokesperson for the Covid-19 response", according to a statement from Judith Collins' office. The reshuffle has been prompted by the retirement of Nick Smith and the announcement Todd Muller will no longer attend caucus, having been shown the exit by Collins after admitting to leaks. He will not contest the next election.

According to the NZ Herald, Bishop was lambasted by Collins in a recent caucus meeting after his dismay over National voting against the bill banning conversion therapy became public.

Other changes see David Bennett takes transport (previously held by Woodhouse), Barbara Kuriger takes agriculture, and Christopher Luxon gaining a number of roles including Land Information NZ, research, science and manufacturing, in addition to his local government and associate transport roles. There are roles, too, for Harete Hipango, a close Collins ally who returned to parliament on the list to replace Smith, who departed citing a altercation which a staffer which was, he said, about to be made public, but never was. She becomes spokesperson for children/Oranga Tamariki, Whānau Ora, Māori development and Māori tourism.

Collins said she had discussions with caucus members by Zoom through the week. “I’m confident this refreshed team will do an outstanding job of holding the government to account and demonstrating our vision for a better New Zealand,” she said.

7.30am: NZ falls 26 places in resilience rankings

The August edition of the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Rankings, an exercise which measures the world’s biggest 53 economies’ performance in the face of Covid, has seen New Zealand drop 26 places to 29th. That's hardly a surprise; the level four measures are very deliberately designed to halt normality drastically for a short period so that it might be restored for the longer term. Government ministers have repeatedly cited the rankings in parliament as they've place Aotearoa at the apex.

But for now, this: "New Zealand, the longest-reigning No 1 since the ranking debuted last November, plunged 26 spots after the nation’s domestic life went from the most relaxed to the strictest, as the government imposed the highest level of lockdown after delta infiltrated its fortress-like defences." The other measure on which New Zealand falls short by comparison is vaccine coverage. The top three ranked countries are Norway, the Netherlands and Finland.

A similar set of measurements informs the Covid Stringency Index, computed a Oxford University. Here New Zealand's change is just as vertiginous, from an assessment of about 22 out of 100 to 96. The essence of the strategy is that the big spikes in stringent measures are worth it just as long as there are wide open pastures between them.

7am: Where we're at

Ata mārie and welcome. Yesterday afternoon the prime minister announced that most of the country will move from the strictest, alert level four lockdown to level three as of Wednesday. Most means everywhere south of the Auckland region (see map below). For those in Auckland, the likelihood is another fortnight at level four – the sum of two full transmission cycles – Jacinda Ardern signalled.

Earlier, there had been confirmation of 70 new cases, bringing the total in the delta community outbreak to 347. All are in Auckland, apart from 14 in Wellington. Vaccination rates are ticking along, with a new record of more than 90,000 doses yesterday.

Below, three charts that give a good sense of the state of things, from our head of data Harkanwal Singh.


And that map:

Keep going!