178 new cases, one death as thousands of stranded Kiwis prepare to come home

Katie Harris, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 Nov 2021, 12:38pm
(Photo / File)
(Photo / File)

178 new cases, one death as thousands of stranded Kiwis prepare to come home

Katie Harris, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 Nov 2021, 12:38pm

There are 178 new cases of Covid-19 across New Zealand and one virus-related death. 

According to the Ministry of Health, a patient in their 50s died at Auckland City Hospital yesterday afternoon - the country's 41st Covid-19 death. 

The patient was admitted on November 5, 2021. 

There are two cases in Northland, 149 in Auckland, 16 in Waikato, nine in Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes and MidCentral - which is in Pahiatua. 

Ninety-six of today's cases have been epidemiologically linked, 82 are still to be determined. Sixty-nine of yesterday's cases were infectious in the community and have exposure events, while 124 have no exposure events. 

Of Northland's two cases, one linked case is in Whangārei and there is one unlinked case in Ruakaka. 

In Waikato, eight cases are in Te Kūiti, five in Huntly and three in Kawhia. All cases are linked to known cases. 

One case reported yesterday has now been confirmed as being in Piopio, southwest of Te Kūiti. 

Bay of Plenty's cases are all in the Tauranga area. Six of the cases are known close contacts and were already in isolation. 

Interviews with the remaining cases are under way to determine the source of their infection. 

A case announced yesterday in Eastern Bay of Plenty is self-isolating and being supported by Tuhoe Hauora. 

Following the detection of the Eastern Bay of Plenty case, additional testing is available at the Nukuhou North Settlers until 4pm today, MoH said in a statement. 

The Lakes case is in Rotorua. MidCentral's Pahīatua case brings the total number of cases in the region to five. 

It comes after multiple wastewater detections of the virus from samples taken in Pahīatua in the past fortnight. The latest case is now self-isolating, with investigations into the source of the infection ongoing. So far, initial case interviews have identified a small number of household contacts, who are isolating with tests arranged. 

Hospitalisations: 60 per cent unvaccinated 

There are 77 people in hospitals around the country. Sixteen are in North Shore, 25 in Middlemore, 33 in Auckland, two in Waikato and one in Rotorua. 

As for the vaccination status of those in hospital, 60 per cent are unvaccinated, seven per cent are partially vaccinated for less than two weeks, 11 per cent are partially vaccinated for more than 14 days, one case is fully vaccinated for less than two weeks, and four cases, or six per cent, were fully vaccinated for more than two weeks. 

The average age of those in hospital is 46 and there are eight cases in ICU or HDU. 

Meanwhile, there are four new cases at the border. One arrived from Ireland on November 19 via the United Kingdom and Singapore. They are isolating in Auckland. 

Three others - who travelled in a bubble - arrived from Singapore direct on November 20 and all are also isolating in the city. 

Another jab milestone 

There have been 7,405,301 doses of the vaccine issued in New Zealand - 92 per cent first doses and 84 per cent second doses. 

It now means 80 per cent of Māori have had their first dose and 66 per cent their second. 

For Pacific people, 90 per cent have had a first dose and 80 per cent both. 

Breaking that down by DHBs experiencing cases, Northland DHB now has 84 per cent first doses and 75 per cent second. 

In Auckland Metro DHBs 93 per cent had first and 88 per cent have had their second dose. 

Waikato DHB has 90 per cent first doses and 82 per cent second. 

In Canterbury, they are now at 95 per cent first doses and 86 per cent second dose. 

Lakes DHB these figures are 87 and 77 per cent respectively. 

At MidCentral DHB there have been 91 per cent first doses and 82 per cent second; 89 per cent of Bay of Plenty DHB residents have had their first dose and 79 per cent second. 

For Wairarapa DHB, they are now at 92 per cent first doses and 82 per cent second. 

Hawke's Bay DHB is 90 per cent first jab and 80 per cent second. 

Meanwhile, at Capital and Coast DHB they have reached 95 per cent first doses and 89 per cent second. 

Earlier today, South Canterbury became the latest DHB to reach the 90 per cent first dose vaccination mark. Twelve of the country's 20 DHBs have now reached the milestone. 

Thousands of Kiwis prepare to flock to NZ 

The latest case numbers follow a day after Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the dismantling of the MIQ system - allowing fully vaccinated Kiwis overseas to come home. 

Hipkins said earlier today that tens of thousands of travellers are expected to flood New Zealand each week when the borders reopen next year. 

And he warns that it only took one person to cause the latest outbreak that has plunged Auckland into 100-day lockdown. 

Today's case numbers will be revealed at 1pm in a statement from the Ministry of Health. There is no press conference planned for today. 

Rapid antigen tests to go on sale 

The Government made a suite of new Covid-19 announcements this morning which include a $200 million boost for those isolating at home and the sale of rapid virus tests to the public. 

Businesses are ahead of the queue when it comes to rapid antigen testing, and will get access to it from next week. 

Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall announced businesses will be able to directly source approved rapid antigen tests for use within their workforce from December 1. 

"Rapid antigen tests will also be available to the general public at pharmacies from 15 December, with tests to be administered under the supervision of pharmacy staff. A PCR test will be required to confirm any positive results," Verrall said. 

For those isolating at home, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said $204.1m will be made available to support those people. 

"Supporting the welfare needs of individuals and whānau is central to how we will manage Covid-19 in the community from now on." 

Yesterday's cases 

Yesterday there were 215 new Covid-19 cases, which took the number of cases in New Zealand's Delta outbreak to over 5000. 

One hundred and eighty-one cases were in Auckland, 18 in Waikato and three in Northland. 

Eighty-seven people were in hospital with the virus, all in Auckland, apart from two. 

This comes as the Government also announced the managed isolation system at New Zealand's border would be dismantled for fully vaccinated Kiwis and travellers who will be able to bypass it from early next year. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said they will still need to isolate at home for seven days, he said. The self-isolation requirement will only be maintained while it is needed, based on public health advice. 

From January 17 next year, fully vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to travel from Australia without having to go through MIQ, Hipkins said. 

If you're a dependant of someone who is eligible to travel, you would be able to travel with them from mid January in Australia. 

From February 13, fully vaccinated Kiwis can travel from all over countries, Hipkins said. 

From the end of April, all other fully vaccinated travellers can come into NZ without needing to go into MIQ. 

This morning Hipkins acknowledged some people thought they were moving too fast and some thought they were moving too slow. 

Speaking to The AM Show about the speed the traffic light legislation was rushed through, he said he would much prefer to put things through a usual parliamentary process. It was not ideal, but they had put safeguards in place, he said. 

"I'm not going to say that's a perfect process. It's certainly not." 

He did not accept they didn't have a plan because they were dealing with a global pandemic and had multiple plans. Things were also changing quite quickly. 

They were absolutely committed to the traffic light system, but the back-up plan would be going back to the alert level system. 

The Government would have to revert to the alert level plan if they had a variant of the virus that was resistant to the vaccine, he said. 

It was a possibility, but it's not what they thought would happen, he said. 

But travel in 2022 won't be the same as pre-2020, Hipkins warned yesterday. 

All travellers will require a negative test, proof of vaccination and declaration they haven't been in very high-risk countries. They will also require regular testing after they have arrived. 

A phased approach to reconnecting NZ to the world was the safest approach to protect vulnerable communities and the health system, Hipkins said 

The three steps constitute a new "medium risk pathway". 

Those which don't fit this pathway will go through MIQ for seven days and then self-isolation for three days. 

On not allowing people to come back from Aussie before Christmas, Hipkins said this was about easing restrictions in a safe way. 

He referenced Auckland's shift to the traffic light system and then the dropping of the boundary around the city, both of which would open up the country to risk. 

"We want to stay in that strong position as much as we can," Hipkins said on the good impact vaccination had had on case numbers in Auckland 

The Government's approach was about progressively managing risk and not opening up multiple pathways for risk. 

On rapid antigen testing, Hipkins said it would play a larger use over the summer, especially for overseas travel as part of pre-departure testing requirements 

As such, that would mean people were tested much closer to their flight than is already being done. 

Bloomfield said each of the cases we would get from overseas if we let travellers in, it would be the opportunity to start a new outbreak anywhere in the country. It was estimated NZ would see 60 more positive cases each week 

The modelling one expert had done had predicted a higher R value of these travellers of between 5-6. 

Hipkins said the best response for Māori communities was a relentless approach to get vaccination levels up in those communities, which he thought the Govt was doing currently. 

On the traffic light system, Bloomfield said businesses could choose to use the verifier app to check vaccination certificates. 

However, it was not compulsory and they could simply visually check those certificates 

The Ministry of Health website reportedly says it would be required to use the app but Bloomfield said that advice had since been updated. 

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said more guidance on the traffic lights system was due this week, including advice specific to sectors such as retail, schools and sporting events. 

From today hairdressers in Auckland can reopen using appointments to trial the new vaccination certificate system. 

All staff must be vaccinated, and they can only accept vaccinated customers. 

On Monday, Ardern announced the country would move to the traffic light system on December 3. 

Auckland will start off at the most restricted "red" setting, because of the ongoing community outbreak. The settings for most other regions will not be announced until November 29, when Cabinet reviews vaccination rates. 

Ardern has promised Cabinet would be "pragmatic" if a region's rates of fully vaccinated people were getting close to the 90 per cent mark but it was likely lower vaccinated regions, especially if they were also summer hotspots, would be at red. 

Details on what it will take for Auckland to move from red to orange were not likely this week. 

Hipkins told RNZ that the Government would look at case numbers, rate of hospitalisation, contact tracing capability, and the nature of communities the cases are in. 

More details will be revealed next week. 

"At this point, when we move to red it opens things up quite substantially in Auckland, and we do have to be aware that with that opening up comes additional risk. So we need to see what that does in terms of transmission and so on. 

"What we don't want to do is get to the point where we move too fast and end up with an outbreak that we then couldn't get back under control." 

Cases were at a "manageable level", and needed to stay that way, Hipkins said.