Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 2 by Catherine McGregor. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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4.00pm: US postal service suspends mail to NZ
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has suspended mail deliveries to New Zealand due to an unavailability of transportation. On its website, the USPS says it is being forced to suspend mail to a number of destinations “due to impacts related to the Covid-19 pandemic and other unrelated service disruptions”.
Customers in the United States have been asked to refrain from mailing items addressed to the 22 countries affected, including Samoa and Australia along with New Zealand, until further notice.
1.25pm: How the outbreak is looking
Today saw a rise in community cases of Covid-19 after two 19 days in a row. However as the graph below shows, we are still seeing significantly fewer cases than on Wednesday when the case count made a shock jump to 45.
See more charts tracking the progress of the delta outbreak on our live Covid Tracker page.
1.00pm: 27 new community cases, new Middlemore exposure event
There are 27 new community cases of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has announced in a media statement. All are in Auckland.
Five of today’s cases are yet to be linked to known cases.
Ten of yesterday’s 19 cases were infectious in the community, the ministry said.
Some other details from today’s case update:
Number of community cases in total: 1,295 (in current outbreak)
Number of active contacts being managed: 1002
Percentage who have received an outbound call from contact tracers: 81%
Percentage with at least one test result: 70%
Locations of interest (total as of 10am): 98
Tests processed last 24 hours: 22,041
Swabs taken in Auckland last 24 hours: 13,083
Vaccines administered yesterday: 47,512, including 12,278 first doses and 35,234 second doses.
Middlemore Hospital exposure event
There has been another possible Covid-19 exposure event at Middlemore Hospital.
A person presented to Middlemore Hospital’s Emergency Department last night seeking treatment for issues unrelated to Covid-19.
The patient answered no to all screening questions but, while in triage, clinical staff noted the patient was displaying a Covid-like symptom and took steps to investigate, isolate and test.
The patient subsequently returned a positive Covid-19 result and was moved to a Covid-19 isolation ward at Middlemore Hospital.
The patient was wearing a mask at all times in ED. All staff were wearing appropriate PPE and as such no staff members are required to stand down.
Naumi MIQ worker
An epidemiological link between the Naumi MIQ worker who was reported as a positive case on September 30 and another case at the border has been identified.
The worker tested positive on 29 September as part of routine surveillance testing. They are fully vaccinated and have been tested regularly. The hours they worked mean they had limited contact with guests at the hotel. They are now isolating in a quarantine facility.
An investigation is underway to determine the pathway of the worker’s infection and identify potential contacts.
12.50pm: ‘Freedom Picnic’ protest ends without incident
Hundreds of people – “as many as 2000”, according to the NZ Herald – have rallied at the Domain in Auckland in protest against the lockdown. The ‘Freedom Picnic’ was organised by Destiny Church and its leader, Brian Tamaki, spoke this morning from the steps in front of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, telling the crowd “we are taking back our country”.
Other speakers struck a more conciliatory tone. “This is a peaceful stand … all around the world we have seen all sorts of stands and some have been riots, but this is a peaceful stand” one MC told those gathered, the Herald reports.
While the use of masks had been a condition agreed to by Tamaki in negotiations with police commissioner Andrew Coster this week, live video of the event viewed by The Spinoff showed few people wearing them.
11.50am: New locations of interest added
Five new locations of interest have been added, all in south and east Auckland: Indo Spice World & Money Gram Manukau (29/09), Noel Leeming Ormiston (26/09), Pak’nSave Manukau (30/09), Whenuapai Gardens Papatoetoe (29/09) and Z Petrol Station Harris Road (29/09).
See all the current locations of interest on our interactive map here.
10.10am: 90% target ‘not good enough’ for level change – epidemiologist
University of Auckland epidemiologist Rod Jackson says 95% of eligible Aucklanders – “minimum” – need to be vaccinated before the region moves down to level two. Speaking to Newshub Nation this morning, Jackson said the government’s target of 90% vaccinated was “not good enough” and that an even higher percentage of people would need to be vaccinated in order to allow safe reopening of the regional border.
The government had said it wanted Auckland to reach 90% by the time it makes its alert level decision on Monday, October 4.
“If you go down to level two with cases out in the community we’re going to end up like Sydney and Melbourne,” Jackson warned.
Wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Vax a nation” on the front and “Don’t be a dick, get the prick” on the back, he said widespread mandates and regulations were the obvious way to get our vaccination rates up.
“The vaccination passports are coming, but we need to go hard. No flight if you’re not vaccinated. No restaurant if you’re not vaccinated. We actually need to give employers the licence to say ‘OK, not vaccinated? You can’t come in.'”
9.20am: Auckland cycle bridge officially scrapped
The government will not proceed with the cycle bridge over Auckland harbour, transport minister Michael Wood has confirmed. The $785m funding for the bridge, part of the Northern Pathway project, will be reallocated to other low-emissions transport projects, including the Eastern busway through Botany, Pakuranga and surrounding suburbs.
“The cancellation of the standalone bridge means we can support a range of other projects consistent with our plan for a transport system that both reduces emissions and supports new housing,” Michael Wood said.
There were initial reports the government planned on cancelling the bridge in early August, following criticism from all sides of the political and transport spectrum, including cycling advocates who said the money would be better spent elsewhere.
8.30am: Covid pill dramatically cuts worst effects, says maker
Drugmaker Merck says its experimental Covid-19 pill reduced hospitalisations and deaths by 50% in recently infected people, potentially heralding a major breakthrough in the fight against the coronavirus.
The company will ask health officials in the US to approve the drug’s use “as soon as possible” after an independent group of monitors recommended stopping the trial early because the interim results were so strong
If cleared, the drug, named molnupiravir, would be the first pill shown to treat Covid-19. All therapies currently authorised in the US require an IV or injection.
As the AP reports, “A pill that could be taken at home, by contrast, could keep many patients out of the hospital, easing the workload on strained health care professionals. It could also help curb outbreaks in lower-income countries that don’t have access to the more expensive infusion therapies.”
Among patients taking molnupiravir, 7.3% were either hospitalised or died at the end of 30 days, compared with 14.1% of those getting a placebo pill. There were no deaths in the drug group compared with eight deaths in the placebo group, according to Merck.
8.00am: ICYMI – Yesterday’s numbers
- There were 19 new delta cases in the Auckland community.
- Of these, 1 remained unlinked at 1pm yesterday
- 10 of Thursday’s cases were infectious while in the community.
- More than 11,000 tests were taken in Auckland yesterday.
- There remains a total of 9 “mystery” cases from the last fortnight, with no person-to-person link yet established.