Live updates, September 25: Sixteen new community Covid cases, all in Auckland

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Saturday September 25, by Toby Manhire. Get in touch on info@thespinoff.co.nz

Thanks for your company today. All our coverage of the Covid response is made possible thanks to Members’ contributions. Help keep the show on the road by joining today.


The day in sum

  • There were 16 new community cases of Covid-19 reported. As of 1pm, three of those had not been connected to known cases.
  • 50,600 vaccines were administered. We should hit five million doses in total tomorrow (so far 1,757,172 have had both doses).
  • The search continued to link a patient who tested positive at the Waitakere Hospital emergency department to the outbreak.
  • Jacinda Ardern addressed the UN General Assembly via a pre-recorded video.
  • A reminder: Daylight saving is tonight, clocks go forward. Hopefully they won’t cock it up like they did a few years back.

6.30pm: New locations of interest

A handful of new locations of interest have been loaded by the Ministry of Health. They include Farro Epsom on September 20, All Truck Fix Favona on September 16 and Othello Superette on September 14, 17 and 20.

For more information, our maps have all the details.

3.50pm: Waitakere Hospital ED case remains a mystery

The person who tested positive for Covid after presenting to the emergency department at Waitakere Hospital yesterday has not yet been linked to the current outbreak, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.

Now in a quarantine facility, the patient presented with Covid symptoms, so was directed to a dedicated area in keeping with current protocols and then moved to a negative pressure room. “Interviews are continuing with public health staff to determine this person’s link to a current cluster,” said a ministry spokesperson. “A small number of patients had also been taken into the same area. These patients will be monitored and tested however, there was no direct contact with the Covid-19 positive patient.”

Fewer than 10 other patients are affected. “Some of these patients have now been discharged and are being followed up by Auckland public health staff. A small number of staff had contact with the patient, all were wearing full PPE and are fully vaccinated. Public health officials have assessed the risk to the public to be low.”

3.15pm: Police warn Aucklanders not to ‘jeopardise everyone’s efforts’

Earlier today police said they were broadly impressed by the levels of compliance with alert level three restrictions in Auckland, while urging: “Now is not the time to lose sight of why these restrictions are in place and jeopardise everyone’s efforts to date.”

Across Tamaki Mākaurau, however, the first weekend in level three in the current outbreak has seen the sun shine and some pretty loose interpretations of the rules. Spinoff readers have been in touch to say they’ve witnessed a kids’ party under way, complete with bouncy castle, and groups of more than 10 people playing football. Ponsonby Road, Mission Bay and Dominion Road have all seen a lot of traffic, both on the roads and on foot, and mixed efforts on masks and distancing. According to the Herald, meanwhile, a group of 32 people playing touch rugby were dispersed by police today.

The technical term for all this, in day four of level three and the 39th day of “lockdown” in Auckland, is 😬.

1.30pm: The shape of the curve

Here’s how today’s numbers (see 1.15pm for details) look in the key charts. For the full suite of charts (or graphs, call them what you like) go here.

1.15pm: 16 new community cases, three unlinked

There are 16 new community cases of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has announced in a media statement. All are in Auckland. That puts the total number of people that have tested positive in the current community outbreak at 1,146. The majority are recovered. All of the cases in the second largest subcluster – the Birkdale Social Network – have now recovered.

Three of today’s cases are yet to be linked to known cases. Encouragingly, only two of yesterday’s nine cases were infectious in the community. There are 13 people currently in hospital across Auckland with Covid. Four are in intensive care.

Some other details from today’s case update:

Number of active contacts being managed: 1,044
Percentage who have received an outbound call from contact tracers: 90%
Percentage with at least one test result: 90%
Locations of interest (total as of 10am): 134
Tests processed last 24 hours: 14,277
Swabs taken in Auckland last 24 hours: 7,502
Vaccines administered yesterday: 50,600, including 18,981 first doses and 31,619 second doses.
Total vaccines administered: 4,968,935 (3,211,763 first dose; 1,757,172 second dose)

No new unexpected detections have been found in wastewater testing.

There is no press conference today.

12.10pm: The doses dovetail

We’re now seeing the number of second doses of the vaccine administered in a given day higher than the number of first doses. Our head of data Harkanwal Singh has updated the graph in the collection so we can see that trend: the thin, skyscraper lines are the daily dose total and the curving line reflect a rolling seven-day average (which smooths out the bumps that weekends bring). You can see very clearly, too, the impact of the pause of vaccination at the start of the lockdown, and the surge that followed. In pursuit of 90% and beyond, the challenge will be ensuring that blue line doesn’t nosedive.

The breakdown in vaccine uptake in terms of ethnicity and DHB make for very compelling viewing. Harkanwal introduces those charts here. Meanwhile, these are the latest overall vaccination rates:

11.15am: ‘I’ve never seen the caucus so happy’ – Judith Collins

Judith Collins has rejected suggestions of disharmony among her MPs and speculation around a Simon Bridges leadership challenge, despite a recent poll by Curia for the Taxpayers Union that put National on just 21.3%. “I’ve never seen the caucus so happy. The caucus is really happy working on the things that matter,” Collins told Tova O’Brien in an interview for Newshub Nation that was reportedly cancelled and then uncancelled. Asked whether she would “go graciously” were polling numbers to remain stuck in the 20s, Collins said: “Look, everybody understands we’re in a Covid lockdown situation, and we’re aware of what happens with that. It happened to Simon Bridges … I want to make this really clear. I am staying. I am not going. I am staying.”

She added: “The thing is, Tova, I’m not the one distracted by these things. Actually, the media has an obligation as well to be focused on the things that matter.”

Collins resisted being drawn on specific targets for opening up borders or vaccination mandate details, but trailed National’s “comprehensive” Covid response plan, which she said is being peer reviewed and will be released in the week to come.

The interview opened with Collins’ response to a report that a man who had been seeking a visa to move to New Zealand may have been killed by Taliban militants. The man was family member who had been resettled in New Zealand as a result of their support of New Zealand troops in Afghanistan. “I find it heartbreaking the fact that New Zealand has left behind hundreds of people who worked with our New Zealand troops and also our New Zealand police when they were in Afghanistan,” she said. “The time to have taken them out would have been in May or even before that, when New Zealand troops were coming out finally,” she said. “I just wished the government had moved a bit faster.”

9.15am: ‘No excuses for remaining unprepared’ – Ardern addresses UN

Jacinda Ardern has delivered New Zealand’s statement to the United Nations General Assembly, but this year there the stardust of previous New York City UNGAs is swapped for a pre-recorded down-the-barrel video that was beamed into the room.

In her speech – watch the full video below – the prime minister touched on Covid-19 (“the ultimate disrupter”), climate change (“one of the most pervasive crises of our time”) and global inequity (“inequality within and between countries has deepened”).

Jacinda Ardern delivers a pre-recorded speech to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York. Photo by PETER FOLEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

She concluded by saying the world simply wasn’t as ready as it should have been for the Covid crisis.

“No one can argue that the global community as a whole was adequately prepared for a global pandemic. It is clear that we will face further global health risks, and we have no excuses for remaining unprepared,” she said.

“New Zealand strongly supports the ambitious and practical approach of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. We will not just passively support the Independent Panel’s recommendations. We will actively engage on work streams to develop a pandemic treaty, convention or other international instrument; to improve global surveillance, validation and early response; and to strengthen the World Health Organisation.

“If there is any lesson we can draw from the events of the past 18 months, it is the need for more, and better, cooperation. And with the need for better cooperation, comes the need for responsive and adaptive global institutions, including the United Nations … As leaders, we have the power to shape our shared institutions and to make them fit for purpose. We must not shy away from this task. I can think of no better way to reaffirm our kindness towards one another, our shared humanity, and our unity.”

8.30am: Person tests positive after presenting at Waitakere Hospital ED

For at least the fourth time in recent weeks a person has tested positive after presenting at the Emergency Department of an Auckland hospital. In the latest case, a positive Covid test was returned by someone who visited the Waitakere Hospital Emergency Department yesterday.

Processes in place at the West Auckland hospital, which sees anyone with Covid symptoms treated in a separate stream, mean there is low risk to staff or other patients, said Waitematā DHB in a statement. “Patients in this area are kept separate from each other. Following a positive Covid-19 test, the patient was moved to a negative pressure room and has since been discharged to MIQ. A small number of staff had contact with the patient, all were wearing full PPE and are fully vaccinated. Due to the correct use of PPE and infection and prevention and control protocols, the risk to staff is considered low.”

The person has now been discharged to a managed isolation facility.

7.30am: Upper Hauraki to return to level two

It’s day 39 of lockdown for Auckland, which remains in level three until at least Wednesday October 6. Upper Hauraki as of 11.59pm tonight joins the rest of the country back in level two. “More than 1,000 tests have been undertaken in the immediate area since Monday, with the only positive results being from the original household,” said Chris Hipkins, Covid response minister, yesterday. “All close contacts from the Mangitangi School exposure event including staff and students have been tested, with all tests returning negative. Widespread wastewater testing in Maramarua, Meremere, Ngatea, Paeroa and Waitakaruru this week has produced no unexpected detections.”

7.15am: Yesterday’s case numbers

The good news is that yesterday brought just nine new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland. As the chart below shows, that’s the first single-digit day since August 18, right at the beginning of the outbreak. At risk of being a great big buzzkill, however, it’s worth noting that it’s the third Friday in row that has seen numbers have looked to be properly flattening, only for the Saturday numbers to blow that impression clean out of the water. (No, I am not suggesting this is statistically significant and, no, I am not arguing for Saturdays to be cancelled.)

There’s another important graph that’s worth a look. The number of cases per day that have had exposure events remains pretty steady. These may be very minor: a quick visit to a supermarket or dairy, for example. But since Auckland moved to level three, the chances of each of these cases having been in a workplace have at least tripled.

Check out our Covid tracker for the full picture, including vaccination numbers.



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.