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Current alert level restrictions to remain for another week for Auckland, and until Friday for Waikato & Northland; Vaccinations to become mandatory for health and education sector workers

Current alert level restrictions to remain for another week for Auckland, and until Friday for Waikato & Northland; Vaccinations to become mandatory for health and education sector workers
Chris Hipkins, Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Robert Kitchin.

Auckland will stay at its current version of Covid-19 Alert Level 3 until at least next Monday, October 18 when Cabinet review the region's setting again.

Schools in Auckland will not re-open after the holidays on October 18, although distanced learning will resume.

The decision follows 35 new Covid-19 cases being reported in Auckland on Monday, 21 of whom are epidemiologically unlinked. There are a further 37 cases from the past fortnight who are unlinked. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the average Covid-19 case is currently spreading the virus to 1.2 to 1.3 other people. Unless this "R value" falls, case numbers will keep rising. 

Waikato and Northland will remain at Level 3 until 11:59pm on Thursday. These settings will be reviewed on Wednesday.

All 31 Waikato cases have been linked. More than 23,000 tests have been done in the region since the first cases were reported on October 3.

Ardern said this provided some confidence there isn't undetected community transmission in the region. Although a bit more time at Level 3 is required to be sure. 

The situation in Northland is problematic, because a person who tested positive on Friday isn't divulging their movements. They also travelled with a woman, who has been identified, but can't be located. 

Ardern said authorities have tried to piece together their movements using CCTV footage and information from a Police investigation, but this doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. 

She said without clear information around where the case went, authorities are relying on high levels of testing to gauge the risk to the region. Ardern said more people in Northland need to get tested. Only 1.1% of the population has been tested in the past 48 hours. 

She said this is especially important because Northland's vaccination rate is relatively low. 

Ardern said the Government’s goal remains the same, even if its approach towards achieving it changes.

She also confirmed more financial support is on the way for struggling households. Ardern said Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni would "most likely" unveil the details during the course of the week. 

"We are mindful of the impacts of Covid restrictions on low-income families in particular," Ardern said.

Vaccinations to become mandatory for health and education sector workers

Vaccinations are due to become mandatory for “high risk” workers in the health and disability sector, as well as for school and early learning staff.

Health and disability workers need to receive their first dose of the vaccine by October 30 and be fully vaccinated by December 1.

School and early learning staff need to have their first dose by November 15 and be fully vaccinated by January 1.

The requirements will be made via an update to the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021.

Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins said, “general practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and all healthcare workers in sites where vulnerable patients are treated (including Intensive Care Units)” will fall under the Order.

“These requirements also include certain non-regulated healthcare work, such as aged residential care, home and community support services, kaupapa Māori health providers and Non-Government Organisations who provide health services,” he said.

A list of workers who will come under the Order will be published within the next few days.

As for school and early learning staff, they will only be able to have contact with children/students if they are vaccinated.

The Order will apply to home-based educators, as well as support staff such as teacher-aides, administration and maintenance staff and contractors.

Those who are not fully vaccinated in the period leading up to January 1 will need to be tested weekly.

Separately, all school employees in Auckland and other Alert Level 3 regions will be required to return a negative Covid-19 test result before they can return to work onsite.

The Government is still considering whether to make vaccinations mandatory for those who work in the tertiary education sector.

Furthermore, secondary schools and kura will be required to keep a Covid-19 vaccination register for students.

Hipkins said exemptions for the new rules “may be possible under some circumstances”.

He noted children are vulnerable, as vaccinations for 5 to 11-year-olds haven’t been approved yet.

He said mandatory vaccinations will also reassure those who are anxious about their children attending school and early learning services.

Vaccinations are already mandatory for workers at managed isolation and quarantine facilities, airports and ports.

Latest vaccination figures from the Ministry of Health

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