Covid 19 coronavirus: Zero cases overnight; Papatoetoe High School refers abuse to police


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New Zealand will have to stay at least three more days in current alert levels, despite another night of zero cases, a senior Government minister says.

Minister Peeni Henare says New Zealanders will need to wait until after tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting before finding out if Auckland will drop out of level 3 and the rest of New Zealand out of level 2 from 6am on Sunday.

He revealed there were no new Covid cases in the community overnight.

Henare said if it was confirmed there were zero community transmission cases later today, that was a positive sign – but it wouldn’t mean the lockdown would end early.

“The Prime Minister has made it clear we’re in this for seven days,” Henare told Newshub.

Meanwhile, the high school at the centre of the cluster that has sent New Zealand’s biggest city into two separate lockdowns has been subjected to abuse – including one email so bad, it had been referred to police.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault says while the school was mostly receiving positive feedback there had been negative feedback on social media.

He had also passed one abusive email to police.

Couillault told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking today that come tomorrow everyone at his school would have either been tested twice or spent a fortnight in self-isolation.

“We’re getting some emails – I got a few yesterday – things like ‘sort your lot out, your kids are a disaster,your school’s a joke, you’re a joke’,all that sort of stuff that you can quite easily say when you’re anonymous and behind a keyboard,” said Couillault.

“I did pass one on to the police because there was a bit of vitriol in it with words that would have offended my mother,” he said. “My mother’s not easily offended, I might add.”

However police told him there was not much they could do as there was not a tangible threat, he said.

However, they did follow it up to make sure it wasn’t anything more sinister.

Couillault said he was looking forward to the alert level being lowered and school resuming as normal.

Meanwhile, Henare said close to 10,000 people had received the vaccine so far, and he believed the country was on track to complete the country’s ever biggest vaccine programme.

Henare said there was “quite a long queue” to train up those to carry out the vaccinations, the training for which was an online model.

He said he was confident that the country would have enough people qualified to carry out the country’s general rollout later this year.


Covid-19 data modelling expertShaun Hendy said it was an excellent sign that none of the tests taken in the community had come back positive this week.

He said if there were no new community cases today and tomorrow it would be more than likely the government would reduce alert levels.

New Zealand had proven to be “lucky” this time round.

He said there was a sting in the tail of the initial outbreak with a three-day lockdown not sufficient to close it out.This lastest seven-day lockdown was the government making absolutely sure to shut it down with confidence.

He said the UK variant was challenging to curtail but it appearedshorter, sharper lockdowns to control outbreaks were worth it in the longrun.

“It was a good sign yesterday that none of the very large number of tests processed on Tuesday came back positive. That’s an excellent sign and we’ll be hoping we see the same thing today.”

There were a number of potential exposures to a positive case last week and so far it appeared there had been no infections as a result.

“The one thing we know with this B.1.1.7 vairant, you really don’t want to let it get out of control. It spreads more rapidly and does take a lot of work to control it so my calculus is these shorter, sharper lockdowns to bring these new variants under control is proably worth it in the long run,” said Hendy.

He said it was a super-spreading virus so while four out of five infected people would only impact household or very close contacts, the fifth person would spread it far and wide.

The hope was the recent case – a student who attended classes and went to the gym while infectious for up to a week – was not that fifth person.

Hendy said one of the major lessons from this outbreak centred on the difficulties surrounding contact tracing in a school community.

“It’s very different to a workplace, for example, or even a retail environment. You’ve got a lot of casual encounters, you’ve got kids changing places and classrooms. I think that actually presents a really big challenge for contact tracing.

“I think if we have a situation like this at a school or a university in future we’re just going to have to be that much better at our game.”

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealanders could all “feel there is light at the end of the tunnel” when it came to the fight against the pandemic. But he is also warning that the tunnel is “still a very long one”.

It is a sentiment shared by many across the country, but particularly those in Auckland who are experiencing their fourth lockdown.

Many businesses are “frustrated” with the yo-yoing between alert levels – something BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said is having dire consequences for many firms.

And there is a sense of “groundhog day” for many students in New Zealand’s biggest city, according to Auckland Secondary Principals Association president Steven Hargreaves.

Students, he said, are “well and truly over being out of school”.

But as Auckland edges towards what will hopefully be the end of this lockdown period, Mayor Phil Goff has a message to Aucklanders: “Stay the course.”

“With the vaccine roll-out underway there is a lot to be hopeful about, but for now we just need to keep going.”

New Zealand is still some months away from a nationwide general vaccination campaign, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying it will begin “midway” through 2021 and Hipkins saying it was going to be “some time” before there is a significant scaling up of the programme.

“We’re still going to have to do the hard yards over the next year until we get to the point where we have got a broad coverage of vaccines,” he said yesterday.

So far, more than 9400 people have received vaccines – all frontline border and MIQ workers.

A further 65,000 doses arrived earlier this week, meaning there are 200,000 vaccines available throughout the country.

But, in the meantime, New Zealand still remains vulnerable to outbreaks and alert level changes.

“While I’m hopeful that we’ll see fewer outbreaks in the year ahead, the risk is still significant and further outbreaks are likely,” Otago University epidemiologist Amanda Kvalsvig said.

“As we’re seeing at the moment, it takes only one less-than-straightforward outbreak into the community to cause huge disruption.”

This time around, that “less-than-straightforward” outbreak came as a result of people ignoring health advice from officials.

Those are: A 21-year old student who went to the gym and university when he should have been isolating and his mother who broke level 3 restrictions to go for a walk with her friend in another bubble.

As it turned out, her friend was the mother of an already infected family.

Although epidemiologists, such as Siouxsie Wiles, have said putting Auckland into alert level 3 was the right move, Kirk Hope said businesses are feeling a growing sense of frustration with moving between alert levels.

Economic research from Auckland Council shows that on average, Auckland loses 200 jobs each day it is in lockdown.

“There is a growing sense of frustration – but businesses are still doing their bit,” Hope said.

He added that business leaders and owners will be keeping a close eye on the Government, in terms of what it does to prevent more lockdowns from occurring.

As well as this, there will be a focus on what is happening next, how long it will take for the vaccination campaign to rollout and how that may impact any future alert level changes.

“People are willing to play their part – but you would get a change if people saw there were ways to stop alert level [increases, which weren’t taken].”

Steven Hargreaves, who is also Macleans College principal, said many students appreciate this is a global pandemic and are playing their part.

“We need to be out of school and staying home. As much as we don’t like it, we’re taking that broader view that we all have to play our part.”

But there is a sense that many students are feeling a sense of “here we go again”.

Meanwhile, there was a bit of good news yesterday – there were no new community cases of Covid-19 for the third day in a row.

This is despite more than 16,000 tests being processed by health officials on Monday.
But Hipkins was careful not to get too excited about the number.

“I think we are still in the critical period where we’re waiting to see all of the test results of all of the relevant close and casual contacts to come back.”

The Ministry of Health, however, was not able to provide the Herald with information as to how many close contacts from Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) or the Hunter’s Plaza gym had been tested so far.

Hipkins said the Government will be looking to see a more fulsome picture of this data “before we can breathe any kind of sign of relief”.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said these last cases make up an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to his alert level recommendations to Cabinet tomorrow.

Additional reporting Julia Gabel.

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