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7 new Covid-19 cases - all linked to the Auckland cluster; Govt aims to test 70,000 people in next week - targeting Maori and Pacific Island communities; National and NZ First want Health Committee reconvened

7 new Covid-19 cases - all linked to the Auckland cluster; Govt aims to test 70,000 people in next week - targeting Maori and Pacific Island communities; National and NZ First want Health Committee reconvened
Ashley Bloomfield. Getty Images.

There are seven new Covid-19 cases, all linked to the Auckland cluster. 

A new case reported over the weekend remains unlinked, although genomic sequencing indicates the strain is linked to the Auckland cluster. The person presented themself to North Shore Hospital overnight on Friday. They’re in a critical condition in the intensive care unit.  

Another case from over the weekend remains unlinked. This person had Covid-19 before coming to New Zealand in June. Their brother also visited Hobbiton, which was visited by someone with Covid-19. 

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said he was particularly concerned about the North Shore case, which popped up unexpectedly.

In addition to the Rydges Hotel maintenance worker, these are the only community cases that remain unlinked.

Altogether there are 110 active cases of Covid-19 in the country that were found in the community.

Testing blitz

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said an "aggressively targeted" testing drive is due to get underway. The aim is to test 70,000 people in the next week - 7,000 a day in Auckland and 3,000 throughout the rest of the country.

Hipkins said there would be a special focus on Maori and Pacific Island communities in South Auckland, with pop-up units due to move around schools, churches and like, to test even asymptomatic people.

The 10,000-a-day target will also include routine tests of managed isolation/quarantine residents, border works and people with symptoms.  

To put this target in context, 4,434 tests were completed yesterday.

National and NZ First want Health Select Committee reconvened 

Hipkins avoided voicing a view on whether the Health Select Committee should be reconvened to enable MPs to quiz ministers and public servants like Bloomfield. Hipkins said it was a matter for the committee to deal with.

New Zealand First moments earlier said it was joining National in calling for the committee to be reconvened in light of the Government’s alert level decision yesterday.

“The decision to delay the General Election and reconvene the House reinforces this government’s commitment to the crucial role parliament plays in holding the executive to account,” New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said.

“It is therefore logical for the Health Select Committee to meet to canvass the advice of the Director-General of Health and other senior officials pertaining to the Alert Level decisions taken by Cabinet on 24 August.

“Given the economic and health consequences of the Cabinet’s decision it is appropriate for the accountability function to be performed while parliament is sitting.”

The latest from the Ministry of Health

There are seven new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today.  All are related to the community cluster in Auckland.

There are no new imported cases.

Of the seven community cases, two are linked to a church in Auckland. Two are household contacts.

This brings our total number of confirmed cases to 1,339, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

One previously reported case is now considered recovered.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 129, of which 19 are imported cases from managed isolation facilities.

By this morning, our contact tracing team had identified 2,446 close contacts of cases, of which 2,390 have been contacted and are self-isolating, and we are in the process of contacting the rest.

If you are called by our contact tracers, please take or return the call.

There are 160 people linked to the cluster who have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility. This includes 89 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their household contacts.

There are 8 people receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19 and all of these are part of the Auckland community cluster.

There are two patients in Auckland City Hospital, both are stable and in isolation on a ward. One patient has been discharged from hospital to the Jet Park quarantine facility in the past 24 hours.

There are two patients in North Shore Hospital, one is stable in isolation on a ward, connected to the community cluster; one is critical in ICU, a community case still under investigation by ARPHS.

There are four patients with COVID-19 in Middlemore Hospital. Two are stable and each of these is in isolation on a ward.  Two are in ICU and are critical.  

These are the same four patients previously reported and are all part of the community cluster.

Hospitals in Auckland continue to manage COVID-19 patients using appropriate infection prevention and control protocols ensuring hospitals remain safe for patients, visitors and staff.

An additional person remains in Waikato Hospital, hospitalised not as a direct result of COVID-19.

Testing

Laboratories completed 4,434 tests yesterday, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 701,504.

People who have symptoms of COVID-19, or who are concerned about potential exposure, should continue to seek advice from their GP or Healthline on getting a test.

NZ COVID Tracer

There are now more than 1,810,200 people registered to use the NZ COVID Tracer app – this is nearly 45% of the population aged 15 and over.

We have been really encouraged to see the uptake of the app – it is great that New Zealanders are clearly aware of the importance of keeping a record of their movements. These recent cases have shown us that the ability to be able to quickly trace and isolate contacts of cases is key to stamping out this virus.

There have been well over a million scans every day for the past 7 days.

There are now 318,278 QR codes that have been created.

The number of QR codes being created has reduced significantly over the last three days, indicating that almost all New Zealand businesses now have their QR codes in place.

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35 Comments

Well the govt has said level 3 will reduce to level 2 in Auckland at the end of this week. Does that mean that it is acceptable for the current trend of say 5 to 10 community cases daily to continue once in that category? If so, as the trend has now been consistent for some days, then why not level 2 Friday night?

Sounds like they want to cast a wider testing net before being absolutely sure - can't fault them for that, given they still have not confirmed the chain of transmission to the North Shore case. Plus going down on a Friday means you will have an absolute blowout weekend - if there's a chance it's still out there beyond your identified contacts then it might take just one night to do a lot of damage, and you won't know about if for a couple of weeks.

if the 10 community cases a day remains for the rest of the week i think L3 will be re-instated on sunday night, but really it should be L4 if any real progress is going to be made.
Going to L2 with that many cases a day is really like throwing in the towel, we will never get ahead of it again and it will become a pervasively spreading pandemic that will reach us all in the end.
Might as well chuck it in today and accept it, get on with life.

Curious what you mean by "get on with life". Nowhere in the world is life close to normal except where the virus has been stamped out. Accepting it would be a terrible idea - throwing away all these gains. We'll see that exponential growth curve kick in and before we know it we'll either see more lockdowns or overflowing hospitals. Nothing has changed.

19
up

Depends on whether they have Identified the Perimeter, added Pace and Scale to testing, achieved the Gold Standard in contact tracing, and paid the PR spinners for the Next set of Catchy Phrases that will be needed to obfuscate the all-but-inevitable FusterCluck to come outta left field....

So long as the new infections are all just people who were living with earlier cases, and maintaining home isolation I am not concerned, but if these new cases were infected outside of isolation then it is too early to relax lockdown.

I thought (at one stage at least) they were all in isolation?

that is supposedly why they are moved to jet park so that they can separate them but keep them in contact and break the chance of those living in the same house catching the virus, they dont give a breakdown of where they are catching it just household contact, so you would assume they are catching it before quarantine

Weekends are when people tend to gather in large numbers and close quarters, one more weekend where they aren't gives just that much more time to deal with this. They are probably the most important days to maintain this for as long as possible

They don't know yet, but easier to sell 1 week to the voting public rather than 2 or 3.

Interesting. Beyond the rhetoric of all earlier claims of "ramped up" testing every time there was an uplift from derisory to puny, duly parroted as if rhetoric matched reality, this is the first time there's talk of testing at anything even remotely approaching scale. Nothing like what could have been done pre-lockdown#1, and too late for the most meaningful results in this outbreak (though not as bad as the sick joke of 'surveillance' testing in week 4 of the first lockdown), but in the current circumstances it might produce some benefits nonetheless, if done well.

There is one main strain of the virus in circulation. Every positive case is now being genome sequenced to link them to the existing cluster. Even if there is no known link via close contact. So how many of the positive tests each day were a result of people being directed to be tested by MOH contact tracers? How many are just more random captures as a result of asymptomatic/symptomatic people being tested? Do MOH followup with those identified as close contacts to ensure they get tested? How many identified close contacts of known cases are yet to be tested?

What is the age breakdown of cases, and of cases in hospital, and ICU care? There seems to be a lack of more detailed information. he numbers in hospital and ICU seem high based on how early we are into this new cluster, which could last another 1-2 months. I am wondering if there are people with symptoms who are not getting tested. eg Overstayers?

it does seem a higher proportion this time around, but take into account it is going through the PI community so you will have more health problems eg diabetic, smokers?
when they specify underlying health issues most people think of people with serious life threating diseases but from what we have seen from offshore it can be conditions many people can live with for many years under management

The Ministry of Health does give a break down of the sex, age group and DHB for confirmed cases:
https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-nov...

However, they haven't released any information about the age and sex for those in hospital, which would be good to know. From the studies that I've read, about 30 - 40% of those hospitalized end up in ICU. So the ICU rate is pretty standard, as we had 10 people in hospital yesterday. As the death rate is about a third for those who enter ICU as well, it's possible that we could see a death occur later on this week.

The current number of people in hospital also reflects the case numbers from 1 - 2 weeks ago, because of the time delay between getting infected, the incubation period, and the point at which symptoms worsen. The real number of cases in the community has probably continued to grow a decent amount since then, so I expect to see the number of people hospitalized to climb steadily throughout this week.

So how many of the positive tests each day were a result of people being directed to be tested by MOH contact tracers?

I don't think they have released these numbers, at least not up to date. My impression is most of them, however.

How many are just more random captures as a result of asymptomatic/symptomatic people being tested?

Very few, as per above.

Do MOH followup with those identified as close contacts to ensure they get tested?

Close contacts are required to self-isolate for 14 days and they get daily phone calls following them up about their symptoms. If they develop symptoms they are sent for testing, which is given a high priority through the lab system.

How many identified close contacts of known cases are yet to be tested?

They're generally only tested if symptomatic, unless they have some other compelling reason to test (perhaps pre-existing conditions that make them more susceptible to a bad infection, for example).

Looks like they'll be testing a lot more of the close contacts as a result of their pivot today, which is a good thing.

All makes sense I suppose. Except for "Close contacts are required to self-isolate for 14 days and they get daily phone calls following them up about their symptoms. If they develop symptoms they are sent for testing, which is given a high priority through the lab system." Anyone who tests positive, Symptomatic or not goes into MIQ or needs to have a highly secure isolation plan that is policed with private security by MOH. The US CDC has estimated the level of Asymptomatic cases of Covid19 at 40% but those people can still infect others. So all of those close contacts are on an honesty system regarding their level of isolation and some of them may be asymptomatic carriers of covid19. Unless they develop symptoms we don't want to test them and we will never know if they had Covid19 or not? Although we have a capacity to test 20000 people a day we don't want to test (a few hundred?) people a day that have had confirmed contact with a positive case?

Most appear to be family members (perfectly understandable) and church goers. There are few that have resulted from random contact. Just do what you need to keep yourself from contracting the virus and we should get through this. Steer clear of covidiots

It took about a month from this number of daily cases in April until we were at consistent 0 new cases and lockdown was ended:
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/new-zealand/
Lockdown is obviously not going to be extended for so long this time. So we will be much more vulnerable to flare ups.

That is where we could fall down. I am wondering if we shouldn't close the borders between cities, apart from essential services. Similar to what Australia has done between states. When Auckland drops to level 2, it potentially increases the risk for the rest of NZ.

Yes, we are falling into the half measures trap. Problem will be once these flair ups start in level 2 what do we do then? Level 3/4 for 2 months or just accept the virus.

Unless we have been preparing for the last 6 months to increase ICU capacity and buy in lot of ventilators, and build new hospitals, I can't see living with it being an option. It means anyone over 60 would essentially be in lockdown for potentially years. Instead we are only talking about locking down to eliminate it for weeks. A lockdown of Weeks vs Years is a significant difference.
We need to look what China have done.

Closing borders between cities could be an option, which is what they have done in Australia, where borders between states have been closed.

Yes, a harder lockdown now would be the most rational approach long term all things considered. The problem is politics & short term thinking.

No the problem is the sieve we call a border.

If people would just knuckle down and do what they need to do to avoid contracting or spreading the virus, much of these conversations would not be needed.

good questions in the house today, turns out day three test in quarantine is voluntary , but if you refuse you do have to stay longer so most people are taking it, they did not divulge a figure of those not taking it
that and the border testing is still not sorted yet by the DHB's still lots of holes to let covid slip back in, through the border
Hon Judith Collins: So how regularly does she expect the highest priority border-facing staff who were tested for COVID-19 last week to be tested in future?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At the moment, we're going through a blanket second wave, but, at the same time, we've asked the Ministry of Health to work through a protocol, a matrix, which prioritises more regular testing for those staff who are more front-facing and at higher risk. To give the member a bit of an insight—for instance, at our borders, those at Auckland Airport who are considered to be at higher risk because they are more passenger- and crew-facing are approximately 280 staff. We'll, again, need to identify that with agencies at the ports, and those staff will have a higher frequency of testing than others. That's the work that the Ministry of Health is undertaking, and we expect to be supported by the team that are helping support the roll-out of our testing strategy
Hon Judith Collins: Is weekly testing of border-facing staff now occurring?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've just outlined, we've already had a sweep of all staff. We're going through the next two weeks, we'll have another sweep of staff, and, in that time frame, the Ministry of Health is working up a matrix of the most at-risk staff being regularly tested. I expect that will be on a rotation that is regular, in the order of weekly.
But, again, it will depend on whether or not those staff are front-facing or not.

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansD_20200...

We already knew testing on day 3 wasn't madatory, as anyone can refuse to be tested. But they will have their stay extended if they refuse the day 12 test. Or least anyone who watches the 1pm standup knew it. Don't politicians watch the 1pm standups?

Politicians are hoping they can whip up yet more fervour amongst the ill-informed about how 'bad' Labour's management of everything has been, despite their management being world-beating.

World-beating, but not virus-beating.

Unless border staff are tested just about daily then that tack is not very much worse than useless. Take the guy in the lift, he could have been tested the day before, might have just come from having a swab done. He could have had two weeks of the virus before being picked up if his symptoms were near negligible.
I suggest that when this settles down a bit and we are back to level 1 the govt implement a scheme whereby anyone getting tested for the slightest symptom and then has to isolate till result is in be, have their earnings subsidized for that, even if they are self employed. Make sure that taking time out to reduce harm should be rewarded. I think that could be cost effective in the long run

What if another Rydges guest in MIQ used the lift just after and that guest was on day 13 of their isolation. Already tested and cleared on day 12. Released the next day infected with Covid19. So many possible scenarios. Without 100% coverage via genome sequencing for every case past and present, we can not track the source or spread accurately.

maybe we need some harsh penalties here to , i see the guy that escaped quarantine and went to the supermarket while being positive pleaded not guilty today

A Perth woman who hid in a Victorian truck to sneak into Western Australia without quarantining has been jailed for six months, the toughest penalty handed down for the charge since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
https://www.smh.com.au/national/western-australia/perth-woman-who-hid-in...

Neither of these is comparable to refusing a test. Interestingly, back in July Reti was suggesting the government was subjecting returnees to unlawful examinations...

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/421761/national-raises-informed-con...

Bloomfield had also made reference to the test being considered a medical procedure - so there clearly is some degree of ethical concern there. Just unsure what Reti is getting at - should people have the right to refuse any test at all?

Days to the General Election: 21
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.