With scrutiny on any new cases in the Waikato and the upward trend in cases in Auckland, the Ministry of Health is revealing the latest numbers at 1pm today.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will then hold a press conference at 4pm to explain the numbers and reveal a roadmap for Auckland out of lockdown.
So far today it has emerged that a baby has tested positive at North Shore Hospital and an Auckland taxi driver may have been infectious for two nights carrying passengers. Taxi drivers are legally required to wear a mask in level 3.
Ardern also confirmed there are more household infections relating to the Raglan case revealed yesterday.
Meanwhile more than 2 million people have now received two doses of the vaccine, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.
“As of this morning, 2,018,305 people were fully vaccinated with two doses, representing 48 per cent of people aged 12 and over,” he said.
“This achievement is also testament to the great effort of New Zealand’s health workers who’ve been working long and hard to deliver the largest vaccination programme in our history.”
Alert level 2 unlikely for Auckland
Several public health experts have said that announcing a move to level 2 for Auckland this week would be too risky, given the relatively low vaccination rates there.
But Ardern is expected to say what aspects of alert level restrictions are lower risk and could be brought in for Auckland, as well as how the vaccination rollout can be boosted.
The trend in cases – including unlinked cases – in Auckland has been rising in the past week. Yesterday there were 33 cases, which only included one of the two Waikato cases, and 23 of them in the past fortnight were unlinked.
This morning Ardern said the household contacts of the Raglan case have tested positive.
Genomic sequencing has linked the two Waikato cases to the Auckland outbreak, but an epidemiological link – who they caught the virus from – remains unclear.
A baby in North Shore Hospital, the parent of a baby in Auckland City Hospital, and an Auckland taxi driver have also tested positive since yesterday’s update.
New locations of interest include a BP station and a sushi place in Raglan, and a Burger King in Palmerston North, following a truck driver who travelled from Auckland to Palmerston North testing positive.
This morning Ardern said there were other options than simply moving Auckland to level 2, and ministers had been considering which lower risk aspects of the alert levels might be introduced for Auckland.
She also said that high vaccination rates provided more options than chasing elimination.
She has not set any official vaccination targets, but yesterday she said that 90 per cent coverage of the eligible population would have meant the five-day level 3 restrictions may not have been needed in the Waikato.
Asked whether that meant the elimination strategy was at an end, she said: “We’re in a transition. So we are changing our strategy as we move. We still need to control this outbreak but we are transitioning.”
Just under 79 per cent of eligible New Zealanders have received at least their first jab, while the rate in Auckland is just under 84 per cent.
Five days at level 3 for parts of the Waikato started at midnight last night, though there was some frustration due to a boundary map only being released overnight.
The two Waikato cases, based on information so far, have not travelled outside the region, though there are some 5000 to 7000 people from outside the Waikato that visited the region during the five days that at least one of them were considered infectious.
Ardern said yesterday that she had not seen any need to put all of the North Island into level 3 at this stage.
She also all but ruled out putting Auckland back into level 4, adding that part of the moving Auckland to level 3 in the first place – described as a calculated risk by public health experts at the time – was because of the public’s weariness of level 4 and the possibility of rule-breaking creeping in.
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