blog nov 8

PoliticsNovember 8, 2021

Live updates, November 8: Alert level restrictions in Auckland to ease; city on track to leave lockdown by December

blog nov 8

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 8, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.

The alert level decisions, summarised

  • Auckland will move to alert level three, step two at 11.59pm tomorrow night.
  • This will next be reviewed in a week’s time, on November 15.
  • The parts of Northland in level three will move back to level two at 11.59pm on Thursday night.
  • Auckland is on track to move into the traffic light system by the end of November.

The 1pm update, in brief

  • There are 190 new community cases of Covid-19 – the second highest on record.
  • Of those, 182 are in Auckland, seven are in Waikato and one is in Northland.
  • An additional four Northland cases will be officially confirmed in tomorrow’s case tally.
  • Hospitalisations have hit a new high of 81, including seven in ICU.
  • A person with Covid-19 has died in hospital.

6.00pm: Auckland’s move to step two ‘risky’ – Plank

The government’s decision to loosen Covid-19 restrictions while cases are doubling in Auckland about every 12 days is a “risky move”, according to modeller Michael Plank of Te Pūnaha Matatini.

Responding to the prime minister’s announcement that at midnight tomorrow Auckland will move to step two of the alert level three exit plan, which means retail can open and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people can go ahead, Plank said, “The government is banking on the new freedoms not contributing to a big increase in transmission. However, with 700 cases from the last two weeks remaining unlinked, the reality is we don’t actually know where a significant proportion of our cases are coming from.”

Speaking via the Science Media Centre, Plank said while interactions in a typical retail setting were lower risk than in hospitality and social gatherings, an increase in cases was “probably inevitable”. While the vaccine has weakened the link between cases, hospitalisations and death, “it hasn’t broken the link altogether”, and “a further increase in cases could put significant pressure on our healthcare system”.

Plank also emphasised the inequity of the health impacts of the outbreak. “Māori are a key group who are also at higher risk from Covid and yet have less protection from the vaccine. In the next few weeks as Auckland approaches the 90% double vaccinated targeted, we should also remember the 90,000 Aucklanders who have had their first dose but not yet their second.”

Immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu agreed, saying while rising vaccination rates in Auckland were encouraging, “it is critical that DHBs also reach at least 90-95% full vaccinations for Māori and Pacific peoples”.

“Leaving anyone behind and unprotected, given the adverse health impact already seen for vulnerable groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, will have far-reaching consequences.”

4.35pm: Toilet-gate is back!

The debate over whether or not you can use the toilet at a friend’s house during alert level three has been reignited.

Auckland will shift to step two of alert level three tomorrow night, unlocking outdoor gatherings for 25 people.

But, with 25 people drinking in someone’s backyard: can you go inside to use the toilet? According to Jacinda Ardern, no. “I’ve been totally consistent on this, no one should go inside,” said Ardern.

Ashley Bloomfield, however, appeared to contradict the PM – just like he did when the debate first erupted a month ago. “The key point is that the gathering should be outside,” said Bloomfield. “Sensible arrangements can be put in place to ensure there’s no risk to others when people need to go to to loo.”

4.25pm: Announcement on border due next week

Jacinda Ardern has announced that an announcement on Auckland’s border can be expected next week.

The PM has been under pressure to reveal details around how Aucklanders will be able to travel out of the city around Christmas.

While Ardern would once again not rule out the largely derided “time slots” plan, suggesting it remains very much on the table, she said Aucklanders can expect certainty – but not for another week.

4.20pm: Pfizer booster doses approved

Medsafe has today approved a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those 18+ who have had a six-month interval between their second dose, announced Jacinda Ardern.

The next step is for the Covid-19 technical advisory group and the Ministry of Health to provide advice to ministers.

The opposition has been pushing for details around boosters for some time. But, National’s Chris Bishop labelled today’s news an “announcement of an announcement”.

4.10pm: Alert level restrictions in Auckland to ease from 11.59pm tomorrow night


Alert level restrictions in Auckland will ease from 11.59pm tomorrow night, Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.

The supercity will move into alert level three, step two – the same restrictions currently in place in Waikato – allowing for retail to reopen and outdoor gatherings to expand up to 25 people.

Speaking at parliament, Jacinda Ardern said the rules for step two remain “low risk”, especially keeping gatherings outside. “The restrictions eased to date were done so because we know they are the safest ones,” said Ardern. “Picnics outside have not led to an uptick in cases, and barbecues have led to just one case.”

The reasons for this decision capture the transition phase we’re in as we continue to minimise the impact of Covid-19 and protect people from it, said Ardern. Vaccination rates are a substantial part of the decision, she added. We now also look to hospitalisations and ICU, and those rates are within expectations.

A move to step three of the exit pathway is still a possibility: cabinet will next review alert level restrictions for Auckland on November 15.

Auckland on track to leave lockdown before December

Meanwhile, Ardern said current modelling indicates that Auckland is on track to move to the new traffic light framework before the end of November. There’s a “strong expectation” that Auckland will move into the Covid-19 protection framework following the November 29 check-in. Projections have shown us cases will grow but this is not the only consideration, Ardern said.

On Wednesday, Ardern will head to Auckland to “support the ongoing vaccination effort” and “meet with local businesses and local government representatives”.

Six DHBs are now at 90% first vaccine doses – including all three in Auckland.

Northland to move back to level two

The parts of Northland currently in alert level three will move back to level two from 11.59pm on Thursday night, on the basis of advice from director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

While there are additional cases in Northland today, but Bloomfield’s advice was that these could be managed through ongoing contact tracing and testing. Ardern said the region’s shift to level two was bumped back to Thursday in order to ensure no further spread.

3.50pm: PM to reveal alert level decision for Auckland and Northland

Jacinda Ardern is set to officially confirm whether or not Auckland can move to alert level three, step two. The move was signalled last week as an “in principle” decision hinged on how the outbreak was tracking. With the PM expected to visit the locked down city on Wednesday, it’s expected the shift will be confirmed.

We’re also will also be an update on the alert level three restrictions for parts of Northland. The very tip of the country moved back into lockdown last week after a pair of unlinked delta cases were identified in Taipa.

And while you’re here: Have you considered joining The Spinoff Members? The support of members has been crucial for our coverage of Covid-19 and the delta crisis. To find out how you can help myself and the rest of The Spinoff’s news team for as little as $1 – click here.

Here’s the livestream or keep this page updated for live coverage.

3.40pm: Organiser of Auckland lockdown protests catches Covid-19

A Destiny Church member, charged with organising a recent anti-lockdown protest in Auckland, has tested positive for Covid-19.

According to Stuff, Paul Craig Thompson is currently isolating at home after contracting the virus. The 57-year-old was arrested alongside Brian Tamaki after a large protest at Auckland’s Domain last month. He was subsequently charged for breaching his bail conditions after attending the most recent rally on October 30

Thompson said he did not have Covid-19 while at that event. However, he refused to disclose his vaccination status to Stuff.

He said he tested negative before the October 30 event and it’s believed he caught the virus on November 1 – two days after.

3.25pm: Experts back call to allow returnees to skip MIQ

A group of top health experts, including Michael Baker and Nick Wilson, believes the risk of contracting Covid-19 from a supermarket is higher than if vaccinated travellers were allowed to skip managed isolation.

Currently, overseas returnees – including those who are fully vaccinated – have to spend time in a quarantine facility. However, more than 800 people confirmed to have the virus have been given permission to self-isolate at home.

That’s led to criticism from the National Party and Act, who both believe the MIQ system has outlived its welcome.

According to the group, public health would be better served by having MIQ rooms available for community cases when their homes are not suitable for home isolation. “Filling MIQ rooms with arrivals who typically have a lower infection risk than Aucklanders wastes limited MIQ space,” they said. “If the government takes a less stringent approach to the Auckland boundary than we recommend, and Aucklanders are not required to quarantine on arrival in other parts of NZ, then most vaccinated international travellers should not be required to either.”

Read the full analysis here

2.15pm: The race to 90%

Just over 3.3 million New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

Another 14,280 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered yesterday, comprising 3,272 first doses and 11,008 second doses.

Below, you can see how your DHB is tracking in the race to 90%.

1.50pm: Today’s key Covid numbers

Here are the key numbers from today’s 1pm update, thanks to The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker.

Today marked the second highest case day from across the pandemic with 190 confirmed in Auckland, Waikato and Northland. The Ministry of Health is now including a rolling seven-day average for case numbers in their daily updates: today’s is 148.

Hospitalisations and mystery cases are also continuing to multiply. There are now more than 80 people with Covid-19 in hospital while 700 delta cases from the past fortnight are now unlinked.

1.15pm: Person with Covid-19 dies in Auckland Hospital

A person in their late 60s who had tested positive for Covid-19 died over the weekend in Auckland City Hospital.

It’s the second death announced today and the fourth in the past week, however none of the deaths have yet been confirmed as being caused by the virus.

The patient was admitted to hospital on October 23 for a trauma incident and tested positive for Covid on admission. The cause of the person’s death will be determined by the coroner, including whether it may have been Covid-19 related.

1.10pm: 190 new delta cases, hospitalisations pass 80

There are 190 new community cases of Covid-19 – the second highest number ever recorded in New Zealand.

Of those, 182 are in Auckland, seven are in Waikato and just one is in Northland. However, the Ministry of Health said an additional four Northland cases have been confirmed since the 9am cut-off this morning and will be announced in tomorrow’s case tally.

This is the final set of case data that will be considered by cabinet ahead of this afternoon’s alert level decision for both Auckland and the very tip of the country.

110 of today’s cases remain unlinked to the outbreak, with 700 mystery cases from the past fortnight. Thirty-seven of yesterday’s cases were infectious while in the community.

There are currently 81 people in hospital with Covid-19, a grim new record for the outbreak and up from 74 yesterday. Seven people are in intensive care.

There are now 24 Covid-19 cases linked to the Edmonton Meadows Care Home in the Auckland suburb of Henderson. Of those, 20 confirmed Covid cases are residents and four are staff members. Seven of the residents are being treated in hospital.

Of the Waikato cases, four are in Te Awamutu and three are in Hamilton. Six were known contacts already in isolation while the remaining case is currently unlinked to the outbreak. There is one case in Waikato Hospital for a non-Covid-19 related condition.

In Northland, four of the cases are linked to known cases and public health interviews with the fifth case are yet to be completed.

Finally, public health staff are now supporting 2,238 individuals to safely isolate at home in Auckland. This includes 838 confirmed Covid cases across 698 households.  A number of suburbs of particular concern, where the risk of unidentified cases is higher, remain. These include Ranui, Sunnyvale, Kelston, Birkdale, Manurewa and Mangere. Locals with any Covid symptoms are asked to get tested, even if they have been vaccinated.

12.55pm: Today’s Covid numbers expected via written statement at 1pm

The latest Covid-19 numbers will be released via written statement. There is no 1pm press conference with the PM set to hold her regular post-cabinet presser at 4pm.

After a record-breaking 200+ cases on Saturday, all eyes will be on whether that was an outlier or the start of a new normal for Auckland. Plus, Covid-related hospitalisations hit new highs over the weekend as well.

Today’s numbers are especially crucial as they come ahead of the decision on whether Northland can leave lockdown and whether Auckland can move into alert level three, step two.

Keep this page updated – I’ll have those numbers for you very soon.

12.00pm: Extremely Online – Are the influencers alright?

Ask kids today what they want to be when they grow up and a lot will say a YouTuber, a TikToker or just a general influencer. It might seem like a dream job, but what’s the real price you pay for being an influencer? The Shit You Should Care About team takes a look in this week’s episode of Extremely Online.

11.40am: School reopening announcement due Wednesday

An announcement on whether students in years 1-10 can return to schools in level three areas will now come on Wednesday.

Last month, it was signalled that schools may return on November 15. But, that day was not fixed in stone and was subject to further decision-making by cabinet.

Speaking to TVNZ, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said health officials have had to go out and speak to education providers to determine what protections need to be in place for schools when they reopen.

10.55am: Person with Covid-19 dies in MIQ

A returnee with Covid-19 in managed isolation has died, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

It’s the third death of a person with Covid-19 in the past week, although none of the deaths have so far been directly linked to the virus.

The returnee arrived on November 3 and tested positive during a routine day three test. “The cause of the person’s death will be determined by the coroner, including whether it may have been Covid-19 related,” said the ministry.

“The ministry wishes to acknowledge the managed isolation facility’s staff and St John paramedics who were called to the facility just before 6.30am.”

9.00am: Ardern still won’t rule out ‘time slots’ for travelling Aucklanders

Jacinda Ardern has reiterated her pledge to allow Aucklanders to leave the city for Christmas – but won’t rule out implementing the controversial “time slot” system.

That idea, which would see Aucklanders given an allocated time for vacating the city, was first floated almost a week ago by Covid response minister Chris Hipkins.

Ardern told RNZ that no decisions have yet been made on how the border will operate over summer. “We’ve been every clear that Aucklanders will be able to move about and reconnect for Christmas and the summer period,” said Ardern.

“The issue is 30-40,000 cars a day trying to cross a border where previously we had no checks. The issue we’re looking at is how do we make that as smooth as possible, if indeed it’s even possible.”

Regardless of how difficult it is to operate, a plan is coming – and vaccinations will play a key role. “We will have a highly vaccinated Auckland environment where people have been confined behind the land boundary for three months,” she said.

There was no timeline for when an announcement might be made, said Ardern. On Newshub, she would not confirm whether the plan would be implemented by December 1 – the first day of summer – only going as far as to say it would be operating in time for Christmas.

(Photo by Mark Mitchell – Pool/Getty Images)

8.30am: Growing case numbers do not mean restrictions can’t be loosened, says PM

Growing Covid-19 case numbers in Auckland do not mean a shift out of alert level three, step one, is off the table.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern will speak at 4pm today, where she is poised to confirm Auckland can ease restrictions to step two of the level three exit from tomorrow. That would see retail reopen and outdoor gatherings more than double.

However, since that in principle decision was made a week ago, more than 1000 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Auckland, hospitalisations have hit new highs and mystery cases have become largely untraceable.

“We have particularly high vaccination rates in Auckland and that is part of our consideration now,” Ardern told RNZ this morning. “Cases will continue to grow. It is not the case that we are waiting for a decline in cases in order to make step down decisions at this point.”

Vaccines now play a “heavy role” in any decision around the easing of restrictions, said Ardern. “As I’ve said, our goals that we’ve set have been around reaching 90% fully vaccinated before we move into our new [traffic light] framework,” she said. “The alternative is that we reach those very high rates, but because of base numbers, we see no movement at all in restrictions. We don’t see that as tenable, however, we do want to make sure we step down carefully as we go.”

Ardern said that compliance with lockdown rules was also a consideration, indicating the number of cases seen in New South Wales while the state was under heavy restrictions. “We can’t assume that people are able to hold at that level for a very long period. After about 60 days you saw an escalation in Australia.”

8.00am: End of lockdown in sight for Auckland as crucial vaccine milestone hit

All three Auckland DHBs have now crossed the 90% first dose milestone for vaccinations, putting the end of lockdown within grasp.

Counties Manukau hit the target last night, with Auckland DHB sitting at 95% and Waitematā DHB at 92% for first jabs.

That means a shift out of alert level three for the supercity could happen in three weeks, roughly 100 days after the lockdown first began in mid-August.

“Today we are an important step closer to Auckland transitioning to the new traffic light system which means restrictions will ease once each DHB is at 90% second doses,” said Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins. “There’s been a huge amount of targeted work going on by local health providers to make vaccines easily accessible and to address hesitancy. It’s really pleasing to see that work paying off.”

The milestone for Auckland came ahead of today’s decision on whether the city can move to “step two” of the level three exit pathway. That would see retail reopen and outdoor gatherings allowed to balloon up to 25.

The next step is for the city’s three DHBs to hit 90% double dosed. That’s another 100,000 or so vaccines in arms across the three Auckland DHB regions, with Auckland central the closest to hitting that milestone – just 13,000 doses to go.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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