Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: PM Jacinda Ardern to announce lockdown decision at 4pm

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce the fate of the country’s lockdown as the Ministry of Health records the highest number of daily Covid-19 cases in over a year.

Cabinet has been meeting this afternoon to decide whether to extend the national alert level 4 lockdown that has been in place since last Wednesday in a bid contain the coutnry’s first outbreak of the highly-infectious Delta variant.

New Zealand is currently in lockdown until 11.59pm tomorrow, but with cases still rising and more than 300 places of interest identified experts say an extension is almost inevitable.

On Monday 35 new cases were announced – 33 in Auckland and 2 in Wellington.

This brings the total number in the community to 107. Of these 99 are in Auckland and eight are in Wellington.

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Ardern and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will front a press conference at 4pm to announce any changes to alert levels.

Case numbers could rise for another five days, says Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall – and numbers today could be the highest we have seen so far.

Meanwhile, new locations of interest have been added by the Ministry of Health, bringing the total to 302.

So far 13,230 contacts have been identified with less than half – 6773 – contacted by public health staff and self isolating.

The majority of the 13,230 contacts are close contacts and the number is expected to rise throughout the day as records are fully processed.

Hopes that some of New Zealand might be able to move out of a full lockdown early seem to be up in the air with Verrall saying “tens of thousands” of Aucklanders left the region when the lockdown was announced, and that’s a risk.

“I think [falling case numbers] could still be a wee way away – it could be another five days before we see the impact of the transmission that was happening in the community prior to lockdown pass through,” Verrall told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

Verrall said it was possible we could see a higher number of cases today than we had in previous days.

The Ministry of Health is still investigating how Covid was transferred from the New South Wales returnee at the Crowne Plaza into the community and is focusing on an open walkway while the case was in the lobby.

The public walkway is separated from the plaza by a perspex shield standing only about seven feet high.

Of the six people who walked through the walkway while the index case was in the lobby, four have been identified. Three have tested negative and one person is in the process of getting a test. Police are helping to identify the remaining two people.

The index case has been genomically linked to three other positive cases who were in a family bubble staying in the room next door at the MIQ facility in central Auckland.

As a result of the link between those cases, officials quickly put in place post-departure day five testing for returnees who were in the Crowne Plaza, and who were on the same floor and whose stay over-lapped with the infectious period of that original case.

Yesterday more than 17,000 Covid tests were taken across Auckland – the biggest day at its community testing centres so far.

Some 11,000 were taken at community testing centres and around 6,000 at general practice and urgent care clinics.

There were also 35,766 tests processed across New Zealand.

There are 16 community testing centres running across Auckland this afternoon including a new site at Pukekohe.

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