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Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

PoliticsAugust 21, 2020

Covid-19 lockdown settings review today: what can we expect and when?

Image: Tina Tiller
Image: Tina Tiller

Covid-19 lockdown and alert level settings are being assessed today by cabinet. What decisions are they making, and when will those decisions be announced?

This piece was first published on RNZ.

Cabinet ministers will meet this morning to review the Covid-19 lockdown settings, but are not expected to make a definitive decision on whether to relax them. Jacinda Ardern will update the public at a 1pm news conference alongside the director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

One week ago, Ardern confirmed Auckland would stay at alert level three and the rest of the country at level two until at least the end of Wednesday, August 26. At the time, she described the move as a “short but precautionary hold” which cabinet would review on August 21.

Speaking yesterday, the health minister, Chris Hipkins, said ministers would consider the most up-to-date information from the recent “surge of testing” and contact tracing. “There’s not an exhaustive hard-and-fast set of rules here. It ultimately comes down to judgements.”

New Zealand yesterday recorded five new cases of Covid-19, bringing the size of the cluster to 78. Another two cases remain under investigation.

Hipkins declined to say when the public should expect an announcement on whether restrictions would be eased. “We do – when we make those decisions – rely on information right up to the hour before we sit down as a cabinet.”

Bloomfield told reporters he would advise ministers on whether he was confident officials had been able to “draw the net tightly” around the outbreak to contain it. “The level of testing that’s been done outside of Auckland will also give us a very good picture about whether there has been spread beyond Auckland.”

Act Party leader David Seymour yesterday told RNZ the latest test results indicated the lockdown should be relaxed next week. “It would be absurd to keep Auckland at level three for another week, unless there’s more outbreaks and heaven forbid that.”

Hipkins is also expected to issue an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act on Friday, setting out the expected testing frequency for border workers.

Last Friday, the government made testing of staff in isolation hotels mandatory after revelations only 40% of staff in isolation hotels had been tested. Since then, almost the entire workforce has been swabbed.

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