Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 3 by Alice Neville. Reach us at email@example.com.
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8.00pm: New locations of interest across Auckland, including several on the North Shore
A number of North Shore locations have appeared on the Ministry of Health’s locations of interest list this evening, taking the total number of locations added today to 19 across Tāmaki Makaurau.
Pak’nSave Albany has been added for two separate exposure times on Monday, September 20 and Thursday, September 30, while Coronation Superette in Hillcrest has been added for two separate exposure times on Thursday September 30 and Friday October 1. GAS Albany Heights has been added for an exposure time yesterday, and Domino’s Beach Haven for Thursday, September 30.
Other locations added this evening are Pak’nSave Manukau for Tuesday, September 28, Tasty Bites Lunch Bar in East Tamaki for Wednesday, September 29, and Z petrol station in Papatoetoe for Thursday, September 30.
Locations of interest are expected in relation to the two new Waikato cases, but they are yet to appear on the site.
7.45pm: Parent of baby in neonatal intensive care unit tests positive
A parent of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) baby at Auckland City Hospital has today tested positive for Covid-19 today, the Ministry of Health has revealed. Staff, whānau and babies in the unit are being tested “as a precaution”, says the ministry in a statement.
It continues: “All of the babies in the unit and those who have recently been discharged are being monitored closely as part of their on-going care and treatment. The DHB’s initial investigations suggest the risk to babies in the unit is low. Auckland DHB and Auckland Regional Public Health Service are working at pace to identify patients and staff who are considered to be contacts. The DHB has plans in place to manage staff levels until it is safe for everyone to return to work.”
The statement does not say whether or not the parent has any known links to existing cases.
“Some expectant mothers may be transferred to other maternity units if their baby is likely to need NICU care that can be provided from neighbouring facilities. Auckland DHB has acknowledged this is a time of much uncertainty for the families involved. They are providing support to any parents, patients and staff members who need it. This includes supporting the Covid-19 positive parent and their family. The thoughts of the DHB, and the Ministry, are with this family as they manage the stress of a positive test result, as well as having a newborn baby in intensive care.”
4.45pm: Auckland businesses want ‘no jab, no job’ mandate
Ninety percent of small and medium enterprises that responded to an Auckland Business Chamber survey endorse mandatory workplace vaccination, according to a press release from the organisation.
CEO Michael Barnett said according to legal advice the Auckland Business Chamber received, “business can’t just demand mandatory vaccination without testing it legally and that would be costly and drawn out”.
Instead, the government should “help business help themselves by endorsing and enabling mandatory vaccination to provide safe and healthy workplace environments”, he said.
“If an employer determines that there is a high health and safety risk of an employee having the virus, being exposed to it, or spreading it to others, it is reasonable to require that employees who perform the work are vaccinated. No employer wants to be responsible for a community outbreak that could cause serious harm or be fatal.”
4.30pm: New locations of interest added, all in Auckland
A number of new locations have been added to the Ministry of Health’s website, all in Auckland and for potential exposure times on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week.
They are Fruit World New Lynn (3-4pm, Wednesday September 29); Cash Converters Ōtara (Wednesday September 29, 10-10.30am); Orly Avenue Superette, Māngere (11.05-11.10pm, Thursday September 30); Chicking Manukau (4.35-5.35pm and 5.50-6pm, Wednesday September 29); Dollar Dealers Ōtara, 10.32-11am, Wednesday September 29); The Warehouse Manukau (12.35pm-1.05pm Thursday, September 30); Tobys Seafood Manurewa (1.15-1.25pm, Thursday September 30); and Cascade Superette Pakuranga, 2.45-3.50pm, Tuesday September 28).
3.00pm: Call for more frequent testing of essential workers crossing alert level boundary
New Covid-19 cases in Waikato and Palmerston North are a reminder of the reason the country remains at alert level two outside Auckland, Covid-19 modeller Michael Plank has said.
Speaking via the Science Media Centre, Plank, of the University of Canterbury and Te Pūnaha Matatini, said “more frequent testing of essential workers crossing the alert level boundary, for example with rapid antigen tests, would help reduce risk.
“However, the Auckland boundary will never be watertight and while there is community transmission in Auckland, there is a risk a case could pop up anywhere in the country.”
Plank said the fact the Waikato cases don’t have a clear link to the Auckland outbreak and have been infectious in the community for several days was concerning and suggests there could be additional community cases. “Moving this area to Level three for five days buys some time for testing and contact tracing to establish how widespread transmission in Waikato is.”
“These events show that, even with a relatively small number of cases in Auckland, keeping the virus contained to one city is difficult,” said Plank. “If the Auckland outbreak grows much larger, it will become even harder to prevent Covid spreading to other parts of New Zealand.
“The message is clear: Covid is here and it’s a matter of time before it spreads across the country. The very best way to protect yourself against this virus is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
2.30pm: Government has ‘lost control’ of outbreak – opposition
The spread of Covid-19 into the Waikato as well as increasing numbers of unlinked cases show the government has lost control of the outbreak, National leader Judith Collins has said via a press release.
It’s “all the proof needed to confirm level three in Auckland is not containing the virus in line with the government’s elimination strategy and a new approach is urgently required”, said Collins.
She said the prime minister was now at a crossroads and needed to give New Zealand “a clear pathway out of lockdowns beyond the prime minister’s repeated claim that elimination remains the goal”.
“By continuing to tell Kiwis the virus is contained the Prime Minister’s rhetoric seems increasingly divorced from the situation on the ground,” said Collins. “At a cost of more than $1 billion a week, the level three lockdown has failed to eliminate Covid. What we have now is the worst of both worlds.
“New Zealand urgently needs a plan. The situation has changed and elimination seems no longer feasible,” said Collins, urging the government to immediately adopt National’s “Opening Up” plan, which was released last week.
Act leader David Seymour took the sentiment up a notch, saying the prime minister has lost control and is in “dangerous denial”. “The government needs to accept it’s failed and plot a new way forward,” Seymour said in a press release, calling for daily wastewater testing, rapid antigen tests for anyone leaving Auckland and saliva testing to be rolled out everywhere.
2.00pm: We’re now experiencing a second outbreak, says PM; are unlinked cases rising?
Speaking at today’s 1pm press conference, the prime minister said New Zealand is in effect now dealing with a second Covid-19 outbreak. “One of the things that has become quite clear is that the original outbreak has essentially ended,” said Jacinda Ardern. “What we’ve now seen is that a subsequent outbreak has emerged, and as with any outbreak, when you’re at the beginning of it, putting a ring around it and determining its scale takes time.”
She said this would be reflected in tomorrow’s decision making, but confirmed a move back to alert level four was not on the cards.
Responding to a question about whether unlinked cases were rising, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said most were linked within 24-48 hours, and many were in groups, rather than lone unlinked cases. Fifteen of today’s 33 cases are so far unlinked; and four of yesterday’s 27 remain unlinked, meaning a link has been found for just one since 1pm yesterday.
The following two graphs show how the outbreak is tracking. For heaps more data analysis, check out the The Spinoff Covid tracker.
1.30pm: From 11.59pm Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia and Hamilton move to level three
From 11.59pm tonight, Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia and Hamilton will join Auckland in alert level three, the prime minister has announced.
Restrictions will remain in place for five days, said Ardern. “This is the same approach as when cases emerged in the upper Hauraki area,” she said.
“After five days of wide testing, contact tracing and wastewater testing, we will assess whether the restrictions need to remain in place”
Wastewater testing in Hamilton on September 25 and 30 has been negative.
For practical reasons, there won’t be a “hard boundary” around these areas like those that separate Auckland from the rest of the country, said Ardern. “The Hamilton region has too many feeder roads for us to successfully operate a hard boundary around the outskirts.” Instead, there will be spot t checks, and Ardern urged people in these areas to comply.
Those who can work from home should, she said.
Ardern’s message to New Zealanders: if you want to avoid lockdown, get vaccinated
“It is not a coincidence that those in our current outbreak have not been vaccinated,” said Ardern. “Those who have not had a vaccine in New Zealand are currently in the minority but they are the vast majority of our cases. That is because the vaccine works but also because the virus is literally finding unvaccinated people. Vaccination makes a difference. It keeps people safe. But it also gives us choices.
“If we had a vaccination rate at 90% or above at either Hamilton or Raglan, it is highly unlikely we would be here today announcing level three restrictions. Instead we would be able to rely on other tools like contact tracing and much lower level public health measures. But while we are still vaccinating we have fewer choices in how we react to cases.
“If the virus moves beyond the Auckland boundary and the places it moves to have low vaccination rates, today is an example of how will need to respond, so please get vaccinated today if you want to avoid level three in your community.”
Ardern confirmed that neither of today’s Waikato cases was vaccinated, and nor was the truck driver who tested positive after travelling to Palmerston North. The driver’s household contacts were, however.
She said a number of locations are expected in relation to the Waikato cases, particularly the Hamilton one, who has been moving around locally. She said that case is believed to have infected the Raglan case on or around September 26.
Alert level decision will go ahead tomorrow; Domain protest ‘slap in face to every Aucklander’
Ardern said cabinet’s decision on Auckland’s alert level restrictions would go ahead as planned tomorrow. She said she didn’t regret moving Auckland to level three and that there was no evidence the shift had contributed to anything that has since happened with the outbreak.
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