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SocietyOctober 25, 2021

Live updates, Labour weekend: Monday brings 109 new community Covid cases


Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for the long weekend from October 23 to 25. The Spinoff wouldn’t exist without its members. Join today.

2.15pm: The path to 90%

Today’s vaccination numbers by DHB have been updated – click on “doses left to get to 90%” to see the exact number of jabs each region needs to hit the magic number.

1.40pm: The shape of the outbreak

Another triple-digit day today after yesterday’s drop to 80.

The number of mystery cases continues to rise – today the number of unlinked cases from the past 14 days tipped over 300, to 307.

1.35pm: Vast majority of cases in current outbreak unvaccinated

The data showing the vaccination status of cases in the current outbreak has been updated today, showing the vast majority continue to be unvaccinated. Just three people who were hospitalised with delta in the current outbreak were fully vaccinated with the requisite two weeks since the second dose. That’s out of 2,681 total cases.

1.25pm: Hospitalisations drop to 35; 87% of eligible New Zealanders have now had at least one vaccine dose

A pleasing dip in the orange line below shows that cases in hospital have dropped from 50 yesterday and 55 the day before to 35 today.

Meanwhile, 18,985 vaccines were administered yesterday, 5,335 first doses and 13,650 second. Combined with Saturday’s massive 42,000 doses dished out, it’s taken eligible New Zealanders to 87% at least partially vaccinated.

1.05pm: 109 new community cases of Covid-19

There are 109 new community cases of Covid-19 today, the Ministry of Health has announced. This brings the total number of cases in this outbreak to 2,681, 1,423 of whom have recovered.

As at 10am, 47 of these cases are linked – including 30 household contacts – and 62 remain unlinked, with investigations continuing to help determine their connection to the outbreak.

Four of the new cases are in Waikato, including two in Ōtorohanga reported last night. Two are in Northland, contacts of the earlier cases who have been in isolation for their infectious period.  The remainder of the new cases are in Auckland.

Twenty-five of yesterday’s cases were infectious in the community, and 54 were in isolation during their infectious period. Sixty-two of today’s cases are yet to be epidemiologically linked.

Encouragingly, cases in hospital have dropped from 50 yesterday to 35 today (14 in Auckland hospital, 13 in Middlemore, seven in North Shore and one in Waikato), with five of those in ICU.

Yesterday, 18,985 were administered yesterday, 5,335 first doses and 13,650 second. In the past 24 hours, 24,343 tests have been carried out, with 6,966 of those in Auckland.

Blenheim case stayed in Tokoroa before flying out from Rotorua airport

The person who tested positive in Blenheim on Saturday spent a night at a residential address in Tokoroa before flying south from Rotorua airport, says the ministry. Public health officials are now investigating whether there are any potential exposure events in the area. Tokoroa is in alert level two. Yesterday, the Ministry of Health said it was believed the case was connected to the Te Awamutu cluster.

A third contact of the case has now returned a negative test. This follows the return of negative tests from two earlier contacts yesterday. All three contacts are now isolating.

The ministry is asking residents in Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman with symptoms – no matter how mild – to please get tested, even if they are vaccinated.

Testing in the region is available today and tomorrow in Blenheim at Horton Park, off Redwood Street, until 5.30pm, in Nelson at the Saxton Field parking area in Suffolk Road in Stoke today and tomorrow until 4pm.

Yesterday, there were 419 tests processed across the region (301 in Marlborough) and 444 vaccinations across the region. Vaccination is available today and tomorrow by walk-in at the Blenheim, Nelson and Richmond vaccination centres, with details available on the Nelson Marlborough Health website.

Waikato and Northland cases

A pop-up testing site will be open in Ōtorohanga today after two people in the Waikato town tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday. It is at the Ōtorohanga Sports Club Carpark, at the Island Reserve on Orahiri Terrace, and will be open until 3pm.

As reported last night, these two cases are close contacts of a previously confirmed case from Te Awamutu. They are now isolating locally in dedicated accommodation, with public health oversight.

Investigations are continuing today to determine their movements.

In addition to the two Ōtorohanga cases, there are a further two new cases in Waikato; one in Hamilton and one in Te Awamutu/Kihikihi. All are known contacts of existing cases and have been in touch with public health officials.

This brings total cases for Waikato during this outbreak to 87, with six cases for which epidemiological links remain under investigation.

The ministry is urging anyone in Waikato to get tested if they have any symptoms. Yesterday 4,820 tests were processed for Waikato. While vaccinations dropped to 939, this was expected over the long weekend with fewer sites operating.

After today’s two expected cases in Northland, the total number of cases associated with this outbreak is now seven. Yesterday there were 633 swabs taken across the region. Meanwhile, there were 333 vaccinations administered in Northland yesterday – of these, 216 were first doses, and a further 117 were second doses.

With 11 locations of interest across Northland confirmed so far, people living in Northland are asked to monitor the Ministry of Health’s website, which is updated regularly. Anyone who visited these locations of interest at the specified times is asked to monitor their symptoms for 14 days and if any develop, get tested and stay at home until a negative test result is received and they have been symptom-free for 24 hours.

The Northland region remains at alert level two. The ministry is recommending that everyone wears face coverings in public areas, washes their hands regularly, and regularly uses the NZ Covid Tracer app to keep track of everywhere they go, and get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

Those in Northland are also reminded to get vaccinated this weekend if they have not already. All vaccination clinic locations across the region are available on the Northland DHB website.

Residents of two North Shore suburbs urged to get tested

The North Shore suburbs of Redvale and Rosedale have high positivity rates (6% and 3.8% respectively) and public health teams want residents with even very mild symptoms to get tested, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.

Monday October 25: The day ahead

There is no scheduled press conference today. Instead, the latest numbers on new cases, hospitalisations and vaccinations will arrive in a statement from the Ministry of Health at 1pm. We’ll have all those details as soon as they arrive.

11.00am: NZ ‘paying the price’ for letting inequality flourish – Sir David Skegg

The doyen of New Zealand epidemiology, Sir David Skegg, has blamed decades of neglect in the health system and in social and economic policy for seeding conditions in which the delta strain was able to thrive.

“Whereas we had been lucky after several previous incursions of SARS-CoV-2, our luck ran out this time,” he told the NZ Herald. The level of spread at the time of detection in Auckland, a super-spreader event at a church service and low vaccination rates had all contributed, said Skegg, who has chaired the Covid advisory group that produced the “Reconnecting NZ to the World” blueprint, but was speaking to the Herald in an independent capacity. That strategy, however, warned that a community delta outbreak was near-inevitable.

“The outbreak got established among people who were living in marginalised sections of the community, including the homeless and those in transitional housing, as well as gangs, and this has made case identification and contact tracing very difficult,” he said. “New Zealand is paying the price for allowing such a big gap to develop, over several decades, between the rich and poor in our society. Infectious diseases typically spread most rapidly among the poor and marginalised, including people in crowded housing. These people suffer the most, but the whole community is worse off as well.”

Reopening report chair Sir David Skegg (Supplied)

Skegg said New Zealand had been too slow in bolstering its contact-tracing capacity and adding saliva testing and rapid antigen testing to the mix of defences. “But our public health function, both centrally in the Ministry of Health and regionally in DHBs has been run down for years. We are paying the price for this neglect. The shortage of manpower and expertise probably explains why more was not done to prepare for the inevitable delta outbreak,” he said.

Skegg rejected former prime minister Sir John Key’s characterisation of Covid-free New Zealand as a “smug hermit kingdom”, saying “Shangri-La” was a better fit.

Sunday’s numbers

  • 80 community cases of Covid-19 – a drop after three triple-digit days in a row.
  • Two cases were in Waikato, yet to be linked. Last night, two further cases were reported in Ōtorohanga, which will be counted in today’s numbers.
  • One case in Northland, a close contact of one of the previous day’s four cases..
  • Covid-related hospitalisations dropped to 50 with four in ICU, down from 50 and five the day before.

7.00pm: Two new cases in Ōtorohanga

Two further positive tests for Covid in the Waikato town of Ōtorohanga have been confirmed by the Ministry of Health. Ōtorohanga is currently in level three settings.

“Early indications are that these two cases are close contacts of a previously confirmed case from Te Awamutu. They were tested yesterday and received their results back today,” reported the ministry in a statement. “The two cases are now isolating locally in dedicated accommodation, with public health oversight. Investigations are continuing to determine further details around the cases movements and another update will be provided tomorrow.”

A testing site will be up and running tomorrow at Ōtorohanga Club, 107 Maniapoto Street on Monday from 11am to 2pm. Anyone in the township who has symptoms is urged to take a test.

2.15pm: NZ ambassador to Turkey may face expulsion

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the removal of ambassadors from 10 countries, including New Zealand, that called for the release of philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala. If carried out, it “would open the deepest rift with the west in Erdogan’s 19 years in power”, reports Reuters.

Kavala was imprisoned four years ago, after being accused of bankrolling protests in 2013 and backing a failed coup in 2016. New Zealand joined ambassadors from the US, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Finland in issuing a statement last week seeking the “urgent release” of Kavala, who continues to contest the charges in the courts. 

“Until we hear anything formally through official channels we do not intend to comment further. New Zealand values its relationship with Turkey,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told media. 

1.40pm: Today’s numbers in charts

Yes, it’s a long weekend, and, yes, numbers wobble around, but forgive us for a breath of relief and a drop in case numbers and, especially, in hospitalisations and numbers in ICU.

The lines for the seven-day rolling average below are impacted by the bump from Super Saturday; in fact the numbers have been very consistent across the last six days now, each of which has seen between 10,000 and 12,000 first doses and more than 30,000 second doses.

Below is the chart where a lot of attention is focused now: the path to 90%. Click on “doses left” to see the precise number of vaccinations left to go in pursuit of that. Waitematā is now the second of the three Auckland DHBs to crack 90% for first doses.

There are many more visualisations on our Covid Tracker page, created by Harkanwal Singh, which you can pore over here.

1.10pm: Blenheim case not vaccinated

The person in Blenheim who tested positive is unvaccinated, the ministry has revealed. Health authorities are continuing interviews with the individual, who flew from Rotorua to Blenheim via Wellington on Thursday and remains in isolation. Two Blenheim-based household contacts have returned negative tests and are also in isolation.

“Initial case interviews suggest the case is linked to the Te Awamutu cluster and has a small number of close contacts in Waikato,” said the ministry. They are all isolating and tests being arranged.

Residents in Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman with symptoms – “no matter how mild” – are asked to get tested, even if vaccinated.

Testing is available at Blenheim CBAC (Horton Park, off Redwood St) from 9am to 5.30pm and Nelson CBAC (Saxton Field parking area, Suffolk Rd, Stoke) from 10am to 6pm.

Yesterday 144 tests were processed in Marlborough.

1.00pm: 80 new cases

There are 80 new community cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has announced via press release. It’s a drop from recent days which have seen three three-figure numbers in a row: 102 on Wednesday, 129 on Friday and 104 yesterday.

Of the new cases, 77 are in Auckland, two are in Waikato and one in Northland. Thirty-four of today’s cases are yet to be linked to known cases. It brings the total case number in the outbreak to 2,572.

There are 50 people in hospital, including four in Intensive Care.

Vaccination rates were encouraging (“especially for a long weekend”, said the ministry), with 11,777 first doses and 30,705 second doses across the country. That means 86% of the eligible population have had a first dose, and 70% also a second.

Testing rates were solid for a long weekend, too, with 28,362 nationally, including more than 10,000 in Auckland.

The Northland case is a close contact of one of the cases announced yesterday. In Northland 1,082 tests were processed, while the region saw 1,134 vaccinations including 508 first doses. See Healthpoint for testing locations.

The new cases in Waikato are in Te Awamutu and Hamilton. Both are yet to be linked to known cases, meaning there are now seven unlinked cases in the region. Health authorities are urging anyone in Waikato, especially people in Te Awamutu, to get tested if they have any symptoms that could be Covid-19. Check here for testing locations.

There were 4,195 tests processed in the region yesterday, while 2,542 people Waikato went for a vaccination – of these, 970 were first doses and 1572 second doses.

In Auckland the “dispersed” nature of the outbreak means “we are concentrating our testing approach in areas with higher positivity rates where the risk of unidentified cases is higher”, said the ministry. The North Shore suburb of Redvale has a high positivity rate of more than 6%. “We are asking people with symptoms, even if they are mild symptoms, and if they are vaccinated, in Redvale to get tested as soon as possible. The other suburb where we are encouraging this testing is the North Shore suburb of Rosedale where the positivity rate is 3.8%.”

New Lynn and Bayswater are no longer considered specific areas of concern, “however we still encourage people in these areas to be vigilant for symptoms and get tested no matter how mild.”

12.45pm: Northland wants return to level three, says Reti

Four recent cases in the last couple of days have led many in Northland to seek a return to a snap lockdown, according to Shane Reti, the National Party deputy leader and health spokesperson.

“What I’m hearing from everyone in the community, certainly from iwi and certainly from business representatives as well and in general discussions, they’re enthusiastic to actually move up a level and keep ourselves safe until we know what the testing environment shows us,” Reti told Q+A on TVNZ.

He said it would be a “real challenge” to get the region to the 90% target for moving to the new traffic light system. But he opposed the threshold applying to Maori vaccination rates. “I’m really enthusiastic that we do not stigmatise Māori,” he said. “This is not a Māori problem. It’s all of our problems and it’s all of our responsibility and privilege to fix.”

Watch the interview here.

Sunday October 24: The day ahead

There is no scheduled press conference today. Instead, the latest numbers on new cases, hospitalisations and vaccinations will arrive in a statement from the Ministry of Health at 1pm. We’ll have all those details as soon as they arrive.

The key questions:

  • Will there be a fourth consecutive day of 100-plus cases?
  • Are there any new cases in Northland or Marlborough, both of which recorded community cases in level two yesterday?
  • After a slight uptick in vaccination numbers yesterday, which saw first doses across Auckland hit 90% of the eligible population, will we see a continuation?
  • With pressure growing on our health system, will hospitalisation numbers again grow?

7.30am: Locations of interest in Blenheim, flights and airports

A bunch of new locations of interest were released last night, including the flights taken by the man from Rotorua to Blenheim, Rotorua and Wellington airports, as well as Blenheim supermarkets, a bakery and hardware store. The KiwiCamp Riverlands campsite is also included across many hours, as are other site in Auckland, Te Awamutu and Hamilton.

Check the full list here.

Saturday’s numbers

  • 104 community cases of Covid-19 – our third triple digit day in a row.
  • Eight cases in Waikato, all linked.
  • Four cases in Northland (two of which were announced previously).
  • One case of Covid-19 in Blenheim. This is the first case in the South Island since November 2020, and is considered low risk by the Ministry of Health.
  • Covid-related hospitalisations up to 55 with five in ICU.

The traffic light system, in a nutshell

  • A new three-tiered traffic light system will be introduced when each DHB region hits 90% fully vaccinated.
  • Auckland will be able to move earlier, when its three DHBs hit that same 90% doubled jabbed milestone.
  • The South Island may move to the new framework earlier, too, if its five DHBs hit 90% double vaccinated.
  • At green and orange, businesses previously considered high-risk can fully open to vaccinated customers.
  • At red, businesses will be able to operate with some restrictions.
  • Still confused? Read our handy explainer here.

Saturday, 1.00pm: 104 new Covid cases today

There are 104 new cases of Covid-19 in the community. As at 10am, 43 of these cases are linked – including 33 household contacts – and 61 remain unlinked, with investigations continuing to help determine their connection to the outbreak.

Of the 104 cases, 91 are in Auckland, 8 in Waikato, 4 in Northland (two of which were announced yesterday) and one in Blenheim.

Northland cases

All four cases of the Northland cases are related to each other and the two newest cases are family members.

A case investigation has identified a limited number of close contacts. So far, all results from close contacts have returned negative test results, with a small number of outstanding results expected later today.

After 102 cases on Thursday and 129 yesterday, today’s total hints at a new normal in triple digit daily case numbers.

Waikato cases

Of the eight new cases reported today, seven are in Te Awamutu and one is in Hamilton. The Te Awamutu cases have all been linked to an exposure event in a household setting. Public Health are planning to interview the Hamilton case today.

The Ministry of Health is urging anyone in Waikato – in particular, people in Te Awamutu – to get tested if they have any symptoms that could be Covid-19.

Auckland suburbs of interest

Due to the outbreak becoming more dispersed across Tāmaki Makaurau, testing in Auckland is now focused on areas with higher positivity rates and where the risk of unidentified cases is higher.

One suburb of interest with a high positivity rate of more than 6% is Redvale, on the North Shore.

Redvale residents with any Covid-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, are urged to get tested as soon as possible, even if they are vaccinated.

Other suburbs of interest are New Lynn and the North Shore suburbs of Rosedale and Bayswater.

Testing in these suburbs is encouraged and available at:

  • Eventfinda Stadium, 17 Silverfield, Wairau Valley – open 8.30am to 4.30pm
  • North Harbour Stadium, Oteha Valley Road in Carpark B – open 8.30am – 4.30pm
  • Northcote Community Testing Centre, Corner of College Road and Kilham Avenue – open 6.30am – 6.30pm
  • Whānau House, Waipareira Trust Henderson, Corner of Edsel and Catherine Street – open 8am to 3pm
  • Massey Pop-up Community Testing Centre, Carpark of Community Hub, Triangle Park, 385 Don Buck Road – open 8.30am to 5pm

New peaks in unlinked cases and hospitalisations

More unwanted records have been broken today. There are now 55 people in hospital with Covid-19, with five receiving intensive care. The average age of these cases is 43.

Today’s 61 unlinked cases brings the total from the past fortnight to 274.

And 53 of yesterday’s 129 cases were infectious in the community.

The climb to 90% begins

The prime minister announced a new traffic light system yesterday that will come into effect regionally, when DHBs reach 90% of the eligible population fully vaccinated. Throughout the week, the daily vaccination numbers had remained steady, but after the 10am announcement…they remained steady, if not a smidgen up, with 11,368 first doses administered and 33,382 second doses.

All eyes are on Auckland, where the three DHBs are either over or tantalising close to 90% first dose (the Auckland total is now over 90%), and where a big push will be made in coming weeks to bring the city out of its months-long lockdown.

Below is a helpful graph, updated regularly, to show how many (literally the exact number of) doses needed for each DHB to reach 90%. For Aucklanders, the DHBs to watch are Auckland, Waitematā and Counties Manukau. Enjoy refreshing it over the coming days and watching the numbers come down.

12.15pm: Blenheim case confirmed

The Ministry of Health has now confirmed the positive case in Marlborough, the first in the South Island this year. Early indications are that it is linked to the Te Awamutu cluster.

The person tested returned a positive test late last night, after flying from Rotorua to Blenheim on Thursday. “The individual sought a test upon arrival after developing a sore throat. The initial test, including a follow-up swab, returned a weak positive result,” said the ministry in its release.

“The current public health assessment is that the risk appears low given the individual’s likely late stage of infection. So far, initial case interviews have identified a small number of close contacts, who have been contacted and are currently isolating with tests arranged. Interviews are also being undertaken to determine any locations of interest. People living in the Blenheim township are asked to monitor the Ministry of Health’s locations of interest page, which is regularly updated.”

All Blenheim residents with symptoms – “no matter how mild” – have been asked to get tested, even if vaccinated. “Investigations into the source of the infection are underway. However, initial case interviews suggest the case is linked to the Te Awamutu cluster.”

Vaccination rates in the region are encouraging, with 90% Marlborough residents having received their first dose, and 78% two doses (see 7am entry for detailed DHB breakdowns).

Testing in the area

Blenheim CBAC: Horton Park, off Redwood St, open 9am to 5.30pm on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday

Nelson CBAC: Saxton Field parking area, Suffolk Rd, Stoke, open 10am to 6pm on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday

Additional testing capacity will be stood up if required, said the ministry. Check Healthpoint for details.

11.50am: New positive case in Blenheim – reports

The South Island has its first positive Covid case in the community since November 2020, according to Stuff.

The site reports that the case is a young man, currently isolating, and that risk is considered low.

John Leggett, mayor of Marlborough, told Stuff he’d had “a reasonably early heads up from the police”, and subsequently received confirmation from health authorities. “You plan for these sorts of things because the possibility of a community case can occur, and it has.” he said.

More information is expected from the Ministry of Health in its 1pm statement. At this stage there remains no press conference scheduled.

11.30am: Did the traffic light announcement move the dial?

The unveiling yesterday of the new traffic light framework came with both a carrot and a stick on vaccination. The faster the country (or Auckland and the South Island separately) moves to high vaccination coverage, the faster the new system kicks in, along with the freedoms it promises. And when the traffic lights are illuminated, vaccine certificates are an integral part of life: no vaccination means curbed access to hospitality, events, retail and so on.

No one would expect a repeat of the Super Saturday rates, but through the week the numbers have been remarkably stable – even a small uptick in vaccinations from Friday in the hours after the 10am press conference would indicate the message is getting through. We’ll find out either way in today’s 1pm statement – there’s also a chance of the Auckland average this weekend tipping over 90% of eligible people getting a first dose.

The national rates this week so far
Monday: 10,025 first doses & 32,768 second doses
Tuesday: 10,392 & 32,417
Wednesday: 10,410 & 32,677
Thursday: 10,066 & 31,228

7.30am: Police pledge to be ‘highly visible’ over holiday weekend

“Officers are working around the clock to be present, and people can expect to be stopped and questioned.” That’s the message from the Police, who are promising to be “highly visible” across the long weekend. “We encourage everyone to enjoy the break, but to remember there are still restrictions in place, particularly around personal movement. Instead of a getaway to the holiday home, keep it local,” said a spokesperson in a media release.

There’s a reminder, too about gathering limits. “Police have a low tolerance for any deliberate breaches of gathering restrictions under alert level three. As has been demonstrated this week, Police will take enforcement action in instances where these rules have been breached, which are in place to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in our community.”

That applies in the parts of Waikato that remain in level three, too. “Police are aware of community concerns in Kawhia and Raglan in regard to adherence with the alert level three restrictions and have increased our staffing to address this. We are working with community and iwi, ensuring their views are considered in terms of how we police these area … We remind people that the Hakarimata summit track in Ngāruawāhia is closed during alert level three. We’re aware of people heading out from Hamilton to use these tracks.”

7am: DHBs and the push for 90%

The traffic light system was announced yesterday, but it doesn’t apply yet. The likelihood is that Auckland will move to the new framework before the rest of the country, when it reaches 90% double-vaccinated across the eligible population in the city’s three DHBs (Counties Manukau, Waitemata and Auckland). For the rest of the country, it will take every DHB hitting the same 90% two-dose target, though the South Island could move earlier, should it get to 90% in all five DHBs.

How far away is that 90% threshold across the country? Here’s how it looks; you can toggle to see just how many doses are required to sound the bell.

What happened on Friday

A lot happened.

  • The new “traffic light” system and the vaccine thresholds to bring it into action were announced.
  • A new support programme for businesses hit by Covid restrictions was outlined, including a doubling of the resurgence support payment.
  • Another record for both community cases of Covid-19 (129) and hospitalisations (51).
  • Two new cases were reported in level-two Northland, unlinked to the earlier Northland cases.

Further reading

  • All your questions about the traffic light framework are answered in this explainer.
  • Catch up with everything that happened on Friday here.
  • Ten experts respond to the traffic light change.
  • Reaction from business and advocacy groups is rounded up here.
  • View the story of the outbreak in data visualisations on our Covid Tracker page, Covid tracker page.
  • Read something really good that is not about Covid. There’s heaps of great writing about screens, what we watch, how we watch it, and more in Screen Week.


Keep going!