Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield. (Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield. (Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

The BulletinNovember 2, 2021

Auckland’s restrictions could be eased next week

Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield. (Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield. (Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

The government expects cases to plateau at 200 infections daily as high vaccine rates are starting to beat back the delta tide, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

Vaccination levels could soon start stemming Auckland’s outbreak. After nearly 11 weeks of lockdown, where Auckland has see-sawed between a surging vaccination programme and an aggressive delta outbreak, the vaccines might finally be getting the upper hand. That’s despite a record 156 cases reported in the city yesterday. As the NZ Herald reports, vaccination coverage could be high enough in three weeks’ time to stall Auckland’s outbreak. That’s based on projections released by director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield which forecast case numbers plateauing at 1400 infections per week by mid-November. Because of the high level of vaccination in the city, Bloomfield said Auckland’s hospitals are not likely to be overwhelmed by Covid-19.

For the unvaccinated outside of Auckland, the clock is ticking. “We will not be able to contain it forever,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern warned the country yesterday, referring to the delta variant. Auckland’s border will be coming down eventually and the virus will not remain bottled up in the city, she said. “Auckland has given us time, time to vaccinate, and we must take it urgently.”

Restrictions will likely be eased in Auckland. After three months of lockdown, Aucklanders could move to step two, level three next week. Areas of Waikato in lockdown will be there first at midnight tonight. Step two has never been used before and it’ll be a tad confusing for many. Alice Neville has written an explainer for The Spinoff about the new step. In short, groups of up to 25 can now gather outside and shops can reopen under certain conditions.

It isn’t level two. Under the government’s current plan, Auckland will never return to level two but will transition to the new traffic light system once the city reaches its 90% vaccination target. There are no vaccine certificates in use yet and as National leader Judith Collins correctly pointed out yesterday, the unvaccinated will have more freedoms under next week’s step two than under next (hopefully) month’s traffic light system. Let’s focus on the next step for now.

Health experts are nervous about the move. “Previously, we worked very hard to eliminate every case. It was a simple strategy and one that we could all and did all get behind,” the prime minister said yesterday. It was striking that before Ardern spoke, the country had access to nearly all the data she had to make her decision. She’d teased Bloomfield’s projection in the morning and the day’s case numbers were announced hours earlier. Despite that, it was impossible to guess whether cabinet would interpret the data with caution or relief. In the end, it decided that 200 new cases a day will be Auckland’s future. As Stuff reports, the health experts aren’t so sure and warn that long Covid is a real risk for the country.

This is part of The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s must-read daily news wrap. To sign up for free, simply enter your email address below

The Bulletin is made possible by Z Energy, proudly supporting local news that matters.

 Check out how they’re delivering New Zealand an alternative fuel future.

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox

The Bulletin

New Zealand’s tough border restrictions will start coming down next year. (RNZ/AFP)

Border to reopen to vaccinated travellers from January

Nearly two years after the managed-isolation system was created, fully vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to fly home over a three stage reopening plan next year.