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Auckland is today at Covid-19 alert level 3 and the rest of New Zealand at level 2 for at least three days after an Auckland family’s three positive tests.
The country moved to the new alert levels at 11.59pm on Sunday, after a dramatic day of developments in the country’s fight against the deadly virus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fronted a 7pm press conference, saying those alert levels would be reviewed every 24 hours but the planned three-day lockdown should allow the Government to get more information about the new community outbreak.
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At the same time, Auckland will undergo a testing blitz to find out how extensive the outbreak is.
Speaking to reporters, Ardern said the lockdown was the “right thing to do.”
“I’m asking New Zealanders to continue to be strong and to be kind.”
She said we all had this feeling of “not again… but we are going to be okay.”
The three community cases announced earlier on Sunday triggered the new alert level restrictions.
The new cases – a mother, father and daughter from South Auckland’s Papatoetoe – are considered “new and active”.
The source of the initial case – believed to be the mother – is still unknown.
But it is believed to be linked to her work at LSG Sky chefs in Māngere where she handled laundry.
Ardern said the Government was asking Aucklanders to “stay home” to stop the spread.
At 8.25pm, a nationwide push alert went out to mobile phones across the country, warning of the lockdown.
In Auckland, Ardern said people should work from home where possible.
And she asked that children stay home from school in Auckland.
For the rest of New Zealand, schools remain open.
Cabinet made the decision after an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon – it was a “cautious approach” Ardern said.
Ardern said “we need to act with a high degree of caution” and “go hard and early”.
LEVEL 3: Auckland
– Stay at home and work remotely if possible
– Schools and daycare only open to children of essential workers
– Gatherings restricted to 10 people, but only for weddings and funerals
– Travel restrictions with borders around Auckland
– Public venues such as pools and playgrounds closed
LEVEL 2: Rest of New Zealand
– People can still go to work
– Schools and daycare remain open
– Gatherings restricted to 100 people
– Travel into Auckland restricted
Supermarkets and petrol stations will remain open so there was “no need to rush out to get any essential items.”
Public venues, such as pools and playgrounds, will be closed.
Gatherings in Auckland are now reduced to 10 people, only for weddings and funerals. That means the Prada Cup racing set for Wednesday will be postponed.
Ardern said she did not know when the race would resume.
But on events, she was clear: “If you can, postponement is the best thing at this point”.
Ardern confirmed police would be setting up roadblocks at the Auckland “border” – they will be in place by this morning.
And said only people who were returning home should be going into Auckland. She advised her own Auckland MPs to stay in the city and not to travel.
Cabinet will meet around midday today, with an update at roughly 4pm – that would provide a “better picture” of the situation, Ardern said.
Ardern urged people to turn on the bluetooth function on their phone and “keep scanning”.
There would be wide-ranging testing of people who were symptomatic, she said.
But she said there was no need for people who did not have symptoms to get tested.
She said she disn’t want people to “clog up the system.”
Officials are still investigating if the family – who have moved to the Jet Park MIQ facility – had infected anyone else.
Bloomfield said more genomic testing from the three cases would be released shortly.
He added that officials were “working under the assumption” that the new cases were one of the new variants – such as the South African or UK strains.
He said exposure through the mother’s workplace was the “most likely” way she got Covid.
Ardern said the developments were an example of how “tricky Covid-19 has been.”
Meanwhile, Bloomfield said he would “assume” that the mother would have been wearing PPE when she was doing the laundry.
Ardern said the woman was meant to be tested every two weeks – that means they would have been tested on February 1, but they were on annual leave at the time.
This was something the Government was looking into, she said.
Ardern said it was up to employers to ensure a regular testing cycle was maintained. Ardern said her expectation was that people kept up their testing rotation.
Papatoetoe High – the school that the daughter attends – will have a pop-up testing centre today. The school is closed for education today and tomorrow.
That testing site was just for people at the school – not other people in the community, Ardern said.
Bloomfield asked anyone who was at the same place as the infected family members to self-isolate and talk to Healthline. Twenty-one locations and times of interest have so far been released.
They are the school, plus: BP Papakura, McDonalds Drury, Gas Piopio, Te Rewarewa Bridge,Sumela Kebab,Amber Court Motel, Pukekura Park, Egmont National Park, Cycle Inn New Plymouth, Puke Ariki Library and Museum, Pizza Hut New Plymouth, Back Beach, BP Breakwater Road, McDonalds Otorohanga, Pak’nSave Manukau, Chemist Warehouse Westfield Manukau, Bunnings Warehouse Manukau, Bunnings Warehouse Takanini, Bunnings Warehouse Botany, Ranfurly Skinny Superette.
Bloomfield said it was important that everyone in NZ played their part right now.
“Keep up the hard work,” he said.
Air New Zealand last night said it had made a number of changes to its services as a result of the alert level changes.
Customers travelling to and from Auckland should check they are eligible to travel under the restrictions.
“Customers travelling from Alert Level 2 regions are able to transit through Auckland on their way to other Alert Level 2 regions.
“Food and beverage service onboard domestic flights had already been suspended in response to the latest community cases and this suspension will remain in place until further notice. Water is available on request on all flights.
“Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounges and valet parking will close [from Monday]. Due to capacity restrictions under Alert Level 2, the maximum number of people able to access the airline’s lounges in other regions is capped at 100.
“While the country is at elevated Alert Levels, Air New Zealand will be taking extra precautions to keep its staff and customers safe. Air New Zealand front line staff and cabin crew will be wearing masks and gloves and customers are required to continue to wear face coverings onboard.
“Customers with existing bookings between Monday February 15 and Sunday February 21 who wish to rebook to travel before Sunday March 7 will have any fare difference waived, and customers can call the contact centre to arrange this.
“In addition to this, customers who hold a ticket for a domestic flight scheduled to depart up until March 30, 2021, and no longer wish to travel are able to opt in for credit and can do this via the airline’s online booking tool.
“Customers who are unable to manage their booking online do not need to contact Air New Zealand immediately or prior to their flight’s departure – assistance will be provided at a later date to find an alternative flight option or a credit note can be arranged.”
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