Covid-19 Delta outbreak: 43 cases today, Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield on second infected Northland traveller

There are 43 cases in the community today after confirmation that the Northland traveller picked up by police last night has tested positive.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also announced a televised’ “vaxathon” this Saturday, which she hopes will break daily records for Kiwis getting the jab.

Ardern said there was capacity to do 100,000 vaccinations in a day and hoped to reach it on “Super Saturday”.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said 40 of today’s cases are in Auckland and three are in Waikato.

Nineteen of today’s cases are still unlinked but interviews are outstanding, according toBloomfield.

Fourteen of yesterday’s 35 cases are still unlinked.

One person of the 34 people in hospital requires a ventilator, he said.

Of the 158 people in hospital since the start of the Delta outbreak, only three people were fully vaccinated.

The Fijian UN worker who was transported here and underwent 76 days in care has recovered.

Bloomfield confirmed the travelling companion of the Northland case tested positive. Public health staff are working closely with both cases and making progress, he said.

The female traveller was with another woman – who tested positive last week – as they drove from Auckland to Northland and back under false pretences.

They have been refusing to tell public health staffers where they went and who they were with, which is key information needed by contact tracers trying to stamp out the spread of Covid.

Police apprehended the woman, who was symptomatic, in a New Lynn house at 9.55pm last night, and took her to the Jet Park quarantine facility in South Auckland.

Her test result was expedited and came back positive this morning. The Ministry of Health said that 18 contacts have been identified for the woman who tested positive last week, 17 of whom have been tested.

Of the 18 contacts, nine are in Northland, seven are in Auckland, one is in Wellington, and one is still to be determined.

Ardern wasn’t aware the two Northland Covid-positive travellers had done so to attend tangi.

She said they went through the MBIE process to get across the border with documentation.

On the original exemption, there were four people for whom the exemption was asked for. Only two of those people crossed the boundary and they were the two travellers, Bloomfield said.

Ardern said there was constant work to see whether the exemption process could be improved.

One of the contacts is in Wellington and all those contacts have returned negative test apart from the second female traveller.

Asked whether she was confident there were no further contacts of these cases, Ardern said they had relied heavily on police on where the two individuals had been.

They had been advised that information was being received through interviews with the second traveller.

Ardern said it was “extraordinary” to have received complete silence from the first Covid positive traveller but the second traveller was reportedly being more helpful.

On Northland locations of interest, Bloomfield said the police have been able to assemble an idea of where the positive cases had been. He wasn’t clear whether the cases had been to Paihia.

Bloomfield didn’t have the information about the two women’s vaccination status.

Ardern said a man flew from Whangarei on Saturday October 9 to Queenstown for employment but did not have documentation. The individual was isolating and the Ministry of Health was working with police on the issue.

She said not all airports had sufficient staffing to make sure all credentials were checked before people flew to other regions.

Super Saturday

Ardern announced a “blast from the past”, between 12-8pm on various TV channels, there will be a “vaxathon”.

It will include real-time data on how regions are going, prizes, information from experts and competition between towns and regions.

Ardern said this Saturday would be about making us one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.

Eighty-two per cent have had their first dose, while 58 per cent have had a second dose.

In Auckland, 87 per cent have had their first dose and 63 per cent their second dose.

There were 69,118 vaccines administered yesterday, 15,107 first doses and 54,011 second doses.

Ardern said these were good figures and put us ahead of the US and Germany but they weren’t high enough for us to ease restrictions.

This Saturday multiple providers open for longer hours to enable more jabs to be administered.

Ardern thanked businesses which had come forward to help out.

She said the country had the ability to administer more than 100,000 on one day, the previous record was about 93,000 which was in August.

“Those are the records that we should try and beat this week.

“I believe we can be world-leading on vaccines too.”

Vaccine mandates

Asked about Māori teachers leaving the industry because of the vaccination mandate, Ardern hoped they would reconsider as she didn’t want to lose them from the workforce.

The decision made by Cabinet on vaccination mandate covered a wide range of healthcare workers.

Bloomfield suspected there would be very high uptake across healthcare and teaching workforces.

On the mandate for businesses, Ardern said work was being done to explore whether a vaccination certificate would be suitable.

Employers were also carrying out health and safety analyses as to whether vaccination was required. Ardern said there was not an expectation for any more legislative change for mandating vaccination.

Bloomfield said exemptions to the mandate were those who had a medical exemption and estimated it would be less than 100 people.

Beyond that, there was an expectation others would be vaccinated.

Other exemptions would be investigated.

On the possibility of case numbers over 100 per day, Ardern said that wasn’t likely.

She reinforced vaccination had been impacting case numbers which showed its importance.

Ardern said control over the outbreak was key, and this was done through vaccination.

On mask exemption, Ardern thought people were required to bring proof of exemption. However, police and the ministry of health have previously said the exemption is not required to enter a store without a mask.

On the suggestion 7.2 per cent of people who have had a first dose aren’t getting their second, Ardern said it was generally 95 per cent of people following through on their second jab and encouraged people to get their second jab as one wasn’t enough.

On a possible lag in testing in Northland, Bloomfield said all hospitals had the capacity to do rapid testing and tests were couried down to Auckland. However, they were prioritised and more couriers had been onboarded to quicken that process.

Ardern said some cases had been in workplaces which weren’t operating in a level 4 environment.

She said the Delta variant had played a role in how elimination had been unsuccessful. There had been examples of quick infection.

This outbreak had also reached into vulnerable communities which made the outbreak more difficult to halt.

However, she said no one was to blame for the current situation other than the virus itself.

Bloomfield said after two months into the outbreak in Auckland, cases were still relatively low compared to scenes in Australia because people had largely done what was asked for them. Also, health staff had done extensive work to test and trace contacts.

Meanwhile, the latest locations of interest include an Auckland laundromat and a central city high-rise apartment complex.

The Ministry of Health is asking anyone who visited the Urba Residences in Howe St, Freemans Bay, between Sunday October 2 and Thursday October 7 to self-monitor for Covid symptoms for 14 days.

“If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve,” the ministry says.

Ardern said yesterday that more information was needed before Northland could be moved out of level 3 – including far more testing.

There are six locations of interest in Northland so far, including two petrol stations, a motel, a hotel, a dairy and a campsite.

Level 2 prospects for the Waikato look rosier, with no cases there yesterday, and no unlinked cases in the region at all.

Ministers will decide on Wednesday on alert level settings for Waikato and Northland, which remain in level 3 until at least the end of Thursday.

Auckland’s level 3 settings – which are slightly less stringent that in Northland and Waikato – have been extended for another week.

Cases in Auckland have continued to trend up, and may continue to do so as the impact of allowing outdoor socialising starts to come through in the daily case numbers.

Yesterday there were 35 cases, but the number of unlinked cases over the past fortnight was 58 – the sixth consecutive day this number has increased.

The number of active contacts (including Waikato and Northland) has also risen – from 1410 a week ago to 2310 yesterday.

Yesterday the Government pushed back the date for Auckland schools opening, which had been signalled for October 18. It will be considered again next week.

The Government also announced that hundreds of thousands of health and education workers will need to be fully vaccinated or face losing their jobs.

High risk healthcare workers – including GPs, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives and paramedics – will have to be fully vaccinated by December 1 this year, and will need to have had their first dose by October 30.

All staff at schools and ECEs who have contact with children and students will need to have a first dose by November 15, and to be fully vaccinated by January 1.

Exemptions will be allowed, including for those who cannot take the Pfizer vaccine for medical reasons.

The Government has said that one of the other three vaccines that have been purchased would be available for those who cannot take Pfizer but still want to be vaccinated.

But only two have Medsafe approval – AstraZeneca and Janssen – and neither are in the country yet.

Yesterday Ardern couldn’t give a date for when they would be.

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