Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 39 new cases, person with virus dies in Auckland

There are 39 new cases of Covid-19 in the community and a person in Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital has died of the virus, said director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay.

Thirty of today’s cases are in Auckland and nine are in Waikato.

Of today’s cases, only one is not linked to the outbreak and interviews are ongoing, McElnay said.

There are four of yesterday’s cases that are still unlinked.

There could be an additional 36 cases in the coming days, McElnay said.

McElnay said there was some uncertainty on the direction of transmission and what was the index case for the new cases announced today.

But she said cases had been very willing to share information.

There was no indication that cases were hiding information and all resources were being used to make sure all information was received about any positive cases.

Meanwhile, an essential worker in Whangārei has returned a weak positive Covid test result.

The worker was tested on Monday as part of surveillance testing and was asymptomatic, then weak result positive result came back today.

On the potential NDHB case, Hipkins said they are an Aucklander and were in Northland when they were tested. They have since returned back to Auckland

They would be retested.

Hipkins said these cases, ones with a weak result, were quite often not true positive cases. However, if it was a positive case with exposure events, contact tracing would be undertaken.

However, it was not a confirmed case at this stage.

On the chance of going back to level 4, Hipkins said it depended on the nature of cases. Currently, it had been many young people who had recovered quite quickly. It would be a different story if more older people were being infected, as they were more at risk.

Hipkins wouldn’t speculate whether the current restrictions would be extended until Christmas in Auckland.

Hipkins said he was well aware of the nature of the outbreak we were dealing with and accepting that getting back to zero cases got harder and harder with every day that passed and said things had been heading in that direction for some time.

Second person charged over anti-lockdown protest

A second person has been charged in relation to the lockdown protest at Auckland Domain.

A man, 57, has been summoned to appear in Auckland District next week.

The man will appear in court on Tuesday – the same day Destiny Church pastor Brain Tamaki appears.

The man is charged with breaching the Covid19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and alert level 3 order.

“The police investigation is continuing and police cannot rule out further charges or enforcement action against others involved in the event,” Superintendent Shanan Gray said.

Death at Middlemore

The Ministry of Health said it was sad to report the death of a patient at Middlemore Hospital, South Auckland.

“The ministry would like to recognise the family’s loss and offer our deepest sympathies,” a statement said.

McElnay said Counties Manukau District Health Board had been treating the patient who had died for quite some time, and was supporting the family

The Middlemore Hospital death is New Zealand’s 28th from Covid and the second linked to the Delta outbreak.

A woman aged in her 90s died in North Shore Hospital last month.

Cases spread into alert level 2 areas in Cambridge, Kawhia

A case has also been reported in Cambridge in Waikato.

Asked whether the alert level 3 boundary would be expanded, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said no decisions had been made but it would be discussed throughout the day.

However, it is possible, Hipkins said.

He said it was important to decide how far the boundary would extend to.

He said there was some understanding of the movement of positive cases south of Auckland.

McElnay said the medical officer of health in Waikato was confident the cases in their rohe were linked.

Wider testing hadn’t uncovered other cases unlinked, so they were waiting for any specific advice to take any further action.

Waipa Deputy Mayor Liz Stolwyk said she had been asked to turn Might River Domain, where rowing regattas are held, into a testing station this morning.

This morning it was reported a person tested positive for Covid-19 in Kawhia, which is currently the country’s least vaccinated area and is outside the Waikato level 3 boundary.

Ōtorohanga district Mayor Max Baxter confirmed he had been informed of the positive case this morning.

The Herald understands the Kawhia case is a close contact of the Hamilton East case.

Five testing centres are open across Waikato, including Raglan, Hamilton and Tokoroa.

A patient who the visited Waikato hospital has tested positive.

They were asymptomatic.

Covid protocols were adhered to but some ED staff are isolating as a precautionary measure, McElnay said.

The case spent around three hours in the children’s emergency department area on Friday night, and was likely infectious during this time, Waikato DHB said.

All 50 ED staff who were on duty at the time have been contacted and stood down pending rapid test results which were being carried out this morning.

Any member of public who was present at the ED will be notified directly as a potential contact.

We are hopeful that we can confirm the majority of staff would not be considered close contacts and can be back at work following a negative test today,” said Waikato DHB Executive Director Hospital and Community Services, Chris Lowry.

Gang members test positive

Hipkins wasn’t aware of how many gang members were involved in the outbreak, but said it was “quite a number”.

Hipkins said co-operation with the gang community was essential but there was no question, it posed bigger challenges as some members had been more active than they should have been under current alert level restrictions

Asked whether drug deals had been involved in transmission, Hipkins was unaware of specifics

Hipkins said two gang members had been given exemptions to travel through alert level boundaries as far as he was aware.

“I have no time for the gangs but the number one priority has to be to stop Covid-19.”

Hipkins said it was possible there were contacts of cases that we weren’t aware of. He said there was an “issue” relating to not knowing where a case of Covid-19 was yesterday but it had been resolved.

Shorter gap between doses of jab recommended

McElnay said a shorter gap between doses is now being encouraged

In August, the gap was extended from three to six weeks.

Officials are recommending a change back to three weeks so more people can get vaccinated sooner.

On increasing the gap between doses being a political decision, Hipkins rejected that.

McElnay said more advice had been sought on the best gap between doses however, it was understood at this time when more people should be vaccinated, three weeks was appropriate and there were no safety concerns.

Asked for the main reason to increase the gap, McElnay said it was a combination between looking at the schedules used overseas, in NZ we were quite unique in having three weeks.

The advice was then six to eight weeks but the current three-week gap was not considered suboptimal.

Hipkins said the goal was to get the vaccine to people before the virus found them.

Yesterday, about 63,000 people got a vaccine. The North and South Islands were neck and neck in their vaccination levels

He said the biggest weapon in fighting Covid was vaccination, reducing risk of transmission and hospitalisation

He said Delta has made the Government’s approach to Covid more difficult and there needed to be a transition to the next phase of New Zealand’s response.

“We can be one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world.

His message to the 80 per cent of the population who have been partially vaccinated is that their job is not done. They need to get those who haven’t had the jab to get vaccinated, make them comfortable.

“It has never been more urgent.”

The Government is planning a nationwide day of action to encourage vaccination on Saturday, October 16.

Hipkins said with over half the eligible population now fully vaccinated and more than 80 per cent with at least one dose, everyone had to do their bit to reach the remaining 20 per cent.

“We’ve got a plan and to make it work we’re asking everyone to contribute to a big, nationwide push for vaccination.

“This will culminate in a National Day of Action for vaccination on Saturday 16 October,” he said.

“On that day, we will have vaccine clinics open throughout Aotearoa all day and into the evening. A bit like Election Day, we will be asking all our political and civic leaders to contribute to a big collective effort to turn people out.”

Hipkins said it was true Covid had taken hold in the most disadvantaged communities in NZ, and was the pattern in other countries.

Challenged on whether those communities had been supported enough, Hipkins said lots of work had been done to engage health providers in those communities to get them vaccinated. However, he conceded those communities were difficult to reach and some didn’t trust the Government, something that could have been built up over generations.

For hard-to-reach communities, Hipkins said their health providers had been given the right tools to enable vaccination. IN terms of testing, a PCR test is still the best way to identify risk, Hipkins said. Rapid antigen tests were good for people who were already positive but said PCR was the best method currently.

Hipkins said it was likely there would be a different process developed on how cases are managed in a highly vaccinated population.

That work was being done currently but no decisions had been made yet.

Getting up to 80 per cent of one dose is helpful, Hipkins said. It was likely we would get to 82 per cent based on current bookings. However, he referenced Portugal’s 98 per cent of eligible people being vaccinated and said NZ could do that too.

He cited Ireland and Denmark in how they’d been slow and steady in easing restrictions and said NZ would follow that process.

GPs and primary care practices were funded per dose which had worked well so far.

Hipkins denies delays meeting with Pfizer

Hipkins denied the Govt delayed meeting with Pfizer, saying there was communication between the two parties during July. He also noted there were about 200 vaccines on the market and everyone was trying to sell them to NZ, Hipkins said.

Asked whether supply issues occurred because of NZ’s speed of communication with Pfizer, Hipkins said no but said it was difficult to go “crystal ball-gazing” on what could have been done at the time to get vaccines into the country earlier.

The Government has also faced criticism over its preparedness for this Delta outbreak, which experts says has thrived in the “perfect storm” of New Zealand’s housing crisis and high poverty rates and followed a similar pattern to the outbreak in Sydney.

On Monday, 24 new cases were announced, including 18 in Auckland and six in Waikato.

Seven cases were unlinked and eight of the previous day’s cases were unlinked. All Waikato cases were linked.

It was estimated there would be an additional 48 cases in the coming days because of the number of contacts to already-confirmed cases.

The Kawhia township is south of Raglan Harbour, Ruapuke and Aotea Harbour, about 40km southwest of Hamilton.

The Ōtorohanga District is at the bottom of the Herald’s Top Towns table for percentage of people fully vaccinated – at just 32.9 per cent of the eligible population.

It also emerged this morning that there are three new Covid exposure events identified in Raglan – two at a local sushi shop and the third at a laundromat.

The Aroha Sushi shop, in Wallis St in Raglan, has been connected to a positive case or cases three times in the last week.

The first visit was last week on Wednesday, between 8am and 2pm.

The second visit was on Friday (October 1) between 8am and 5.15pm.

The third link to the shop is also on that Friday between 3.15pm and 4.15pm.

Anyone who has been to the sushi establishment is being told: “Self-isolate for 14 days after you were exposed at this location of interest.”

People are also told to get tested for Covid-19 immediately and to record their visit on the Ministry of Health website.

Meanwhile Aucklanders have been out and about since early this morning following minor loosening of level 3 Delta rules.

That includes numerous boaties finally firing up their boats for fishing trips off Auckland’s coastline after a nationwide level 4 lockdown was brought in on August 18.

The Herald also spotted this morning several groups of swimmers taking to the water around the harbour.

Auckland still remains in level 3. Areas of the Waikato are also in level 3, while the rest of the country is in level 2.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reinforced that those mingling between extended bubbles had to do it outdoors and hosts were not to allow visitors inside to use bathrooms.

From today those in the locked down Auckland region have been able to extend their bubbles slightly; with gatherings of up to 10 people – from a maximum of two bubbles – able to meet outside.

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