Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 9, by Madeleine Chapman.
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The alert levels, in summary
- Northland is now in level three (classic level three) until at least 11.59pm Tuesday. This will be reviewed on Monday.
- Parts of Waikato are in level three (classic level three) until at least 11.59pm Monday.
- Auckland is in step one of its alert level three exit plan. This will be reviewed on Monday.
- The rest of the country, including the South Island, is in alert level two.
- There are 34 new community cases of Covid-19, including three in Waikato.
- Of the 31 in Auckland, 11 have not yet been linked. All three cases in Waikato are linked.
- There are now 26 people in hospital with Covid-19, and seven of them are receiving intensive care.
- A record 67,189 second doses of the vaccine were administered yesterday, out of 85,757 in total.
7.00pm: Positive case in Bay of Plenty
A person currently in Katikati has tested positive for Covid-19. The test was taken yesterday in Auckland. The person lives in Pukekohe and is “in the process of moving to a rural area north of Katikati”, according to the Ministry of Heath.
The ministry reports: “The test result has a high CT value usually seen in the early or late stage of infection and is under further investigation, including a repeat test. The person has been permitted to cross the boundary in and out of Auckland as they are in the process of shifting house. As part of this, the individual has been having regular surveillance testing – at least five tests have been taken since the beginning of September, the most recent prior test was October 5. All five of those tests were negative.
“The person is also a consistent user of the Covid tracer app which will assist with contact tracing and identifying any locations of interest. The individual who returned the positive result is fully vaccinated and has reported no symptoms apart from regular seasonal hayfever and resultant runny nose that hadn’t recently changed. The person is also a consistent user of the Covid tracer app, which will assist with contact tracing and identifying any locations of interest. These will be added to the Ministry of Health website as soon as confirmed. Initial information has identified locations of interest in Katikati and Pukekohe, with details to follow.
“All family members have been contacted, tests arranged and are currently isolating. Results are expected tomorrow. The current public health assessment is that the risk appears low given the person’s vaccination status, regular test history, good use of the app and rapid contact, testing and isolation of family members.”
Testing locations open on Sunday:
- Katikati Medical Centre, 4 Clive Road, 8.30am – 4.30pm
- Katikati Rugby and Sports Clubrooms, Fairview Rd, Katikati 8.30am – 4.30pm (hours will be extended if there is high-demand)
- Tauranga Accident and HealthCare, 19 Second Avenue, 8.00am – 6.00pm
4.10pm: Long queues for testing in Whangārei
A Spinoff correspondent* waited in line for three hours to get a test in Whangārei today on day one of Northland’s level three stint. The testing centre in Kamo was packed, with many residents deploying an abundance of caution given the dearth of locations of interest in the area. “Hopefully we get some more locations of interest soon, otherwise more wait times like this are likely,” said our correspondent. Police are continuing to interview the positive case in attempts to record further locations of interest in the Northland region.
The testing centre itself is up for lease once its public health duty has been fulfilled. The Spinoff’s correspondent hopes it will become a roller rink.
3.05pm: Prime minister responds to claims about Northland case
Earlier this morning (see 10.05am update) Winston Peters appeared on Newshub Nation and made claims about the positive case in Northland, including how she crossed the border, who she travelled with, and where they travelled to. Similar claims have been circulating on social media since the 6.30pm press conference yesterday when details (or lack theref) of the woman’s movements was discussed.
Harry Tam, who was named by Peters, has already disputed the allegations, saying he has been in Auckland and never travelled to Northland during the outbreak.
After calls from Act and National for the government to confirm or deny Peters’ claims (as well as any other uncertainty around the woman, her companion, and their movements), the prime minister has responded.
“There is no evidence to back up some of the claims that have been circulating online and on social media,” she said.
“What we do know from video and CCTV footage is the individual in question was travelling with a woman, we know that for the place in which they were staying for that period of time has also confirmed they were travelling with a woman, and the person that has been implicated through some of that social media chat has themselves confirmed they were not in the Northland region.”
Police are still working to locate the woman who travelled with the positive case around the Northland region between October 2 and October 6.
1.40pm: Another big vaccination day yesterday
New Zealanders are continuing to turn out in huge numbers to receive their Covid-19 vaccine. There were 85,757 doses administered yesterday across the motu, with 18,568 being first doses and 67,189 second doses. That’s the most second doses administered in a single day to date.
There were also 10,283 doses administered for Māori yesterday, another record.
The daily lines on the below graph are looking good and tall, but the country still needs more long boys in order to surpass our 90% target .
1.30pm: Cases infectious in the community rising
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of positive cases infectious in the community has risen again, with 31 of Friday’s 44 cases being out in the community while infectious. That’s the highest number since the outbreak began, with the second highest number coming on Wednesday this week, two days earlier. It’s to be expected with eased restrictions, but it’s not ideal.
Meanwhile, daily case numbers have remained steady this week, hovering between 25 and 45 cases per day. With a move away from full elimination, steady numbers aren’t so bad for containment. But as testing ramps up in Northland amidst many unknowns regarding possible exposure events, these numbers may rise again in coming days.
1.15pm: 34 new community cases, three in Waikato
There are 34 new community cases of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has announced in a media statement. 31 are in Auckland and three in Waikato.
Of today’s cases, 11 in Auckland are yet to be linked to known cases. All three Waikato cases are linked to the initial Hamilton East case.
31 of yesterday’s 44 cases were infectious in the community, the ministry said.
There are currently 26 people in hospital with Covid-19, seven of whom are receiving intensive care.
The Northland case: A second person, who is thought to have travelled with this case, has not yet been able to be contacted.
12.45pm: Latest case numbers imminent
The 1pm statement from the Ministry of Health will (read: should) be arriving shortly with the latest update of case, testing, and vaccination numbers. We’ll have all the important details for you here.
As a side note: the government is yet to comment on allegations made by former deputy PM Winston Peters regarding the positive case in Northland this week.
10.05am: Winston Peters makes big claims about Northland case
The former deputy prime minister appeared on Newshub Nation this morning and wasted no time making his mark. Speaking from newly-locked down Northland, Peters claimed, without providing any evidence, that the woman who tested positive had travelled across the border with a senior gang member, stayed at a hotel, and hid from the public and police at a marae. When Simon Shepherd asked for more detail, Peters responded, “I can tell you who she travelled with, which hotel she stayed at but I’m not prepared to tell you which marae at this point in time because that’s known to the police and it was known to minister Hipkins and the government and the prime minister days ago and they should tell you.”
Peters went on to allege that the woman was travelling with “a life gang member for the Mongrel Mob called Tam”, referring to Harry Tam, who was granted an essential worker exemption to travel into Auckland for the purposes of encouraging vaccination among gang members.
Tam has responded to Peters’ allegations immediately, categorically rejecting the claims. He told Q&A that Peters’ claims are totally unfounded and that he hasn’t travelled to Northland at all this outbreak.
9.30am: Early medical abortions now accessible through GPs and midwives
Abortion was (finally) removed from Crimes Act last year after decades of campaigning by activists. While the change removed some of the many hoops women had to jump through to undergo a safe medical abortion, access for all remained an issue.
Today, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced that the medication – two pills taken within nine weeks of conception that induce a miscarriage – can now be prescribed by primary care practitioners like GPs, nurse practitioners and midwives.
Before today, the medication was accessible only through public hospitals and family planning clinics. The new changes will improve access to early medical abortion “and will mean people can access the service from their trusted primary care provider and in a familiar setting,” Verrall said.
8.15am: Yesterday’s news
An uncooperative positive case has led to Northland being placed in alert level three.
So far, two locations of interest in Northland have been added to the Ministry of Health’s website, both petrol stations in Whangārei, after a woman left Auckland and is “believed to have travelled around the region, including in Whangārei, Kamo, Paihia and Kawakawa” before returning to Auckland. The woman later tested positive for Covid-19 but has not been cooperating with officials, leading to many unknowns around where she went in her travels and who she interacted with.
“The information we have at this stage is that the person was in Northland from the afternoon of 2 October until the evening of 6 October,” Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said during a surprise press conference at 6.30pm yesterday to announce the alert level change.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think it was very possible we’ll see more cases,” said Hipkins. He also noted that the phone numbers provided by the person were not valid and it was very hard to find them.
Hipkins confirmed that there are two women whose movements are of interest, one being the positive case and the other a travel companion. The woman travelling with the positive case has now been identified but officials have been unable to locate her. The positive case is now in an Auckland MIQ facility.
Low vaccination rates in Northland were considered when assessing the alert change and are still a concern.
Northland’s vaccination rates have remained low throughout the vaccine programme. Right now, 70% of people in Northland have had their first dose and 48 % their second, said Hipkins. For Māori, this is even lower, at 52% first dose and 32% second. With the delta variant being far more dangerous to the unvaccinated, the risk of transmission and serious illness is greater than in other areas of the country. Hipkins was unequivocal in his plea to residents:
“I cannot stress this enough: please get vaccinated”
Locations of interest are rapidly increasing with restrictions eased in Auckland.
Even without the full list of locations north of Auckland, the Ministry of Health added 70 entries to its locations of interest page yesterday. The locations are from all over Auckland as well as Waikato and two Whangārei petrol stations.
To stay up to date with the latest locations while looking at something far more interesting than a Word doc table, use The Spinoff’s interactive map.
Daily vaccination rates continue to rise.
Great work, team! Thursday’s vaccination numbers were big, with 82,303 doses administered nationwide. Most of these were second doses: 62,598 compared with 19,705 first doses.
After their shift to alert level three, Waikato turned out in record numbers to get vaccinated with 10,397 doses given in one day. “This equates to a 4% increase in first doses across the Waikato in one day,” said the Ministry of Health in its press statement. There are hopes that an identical shift to alert level three will inspire a similar surge of vaccinations in Northland this weekend.
- There were 44 new community cases of Covid-19 yesterday, including three in Waikato.
- Of the 41 in Auckland, 12 have not yet been linked. All cases in Waikato are linked.
- There are now 25 people in hospital with Covid-19, five of whom are in intensive care.