92 new community Covid cases as Aucklanders grab a beer, hit the gym

Ben Leahy, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Dec 2021, 12:21PM

92 new community Covid cases as Aucklanders grab a beer, hit the gym

Ben Leahy, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Dec 2021, 12:21PM

There are 92 new Covid community cases on day one of the nation's move to the new traffic light system. 

The last day New Zealand recorded under 100 community cases was October 28, with 89 cases. 

Of today's cases, 80 are in Auckland, two in Waikato, one in Northland , five in the Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes DHB, one in Nelson-Malrborough and two in Taranaki. 

There are now 936 people with Covid in isolation in their homes. 

There has been a decrease in hospitalitions since yesterday. There are now 79 people in hospital, including nine in intensive care. 

There has also been a new wastewater detection in Gisborne, director of Public Health Caroline McElnay said at today's 1pm media briefing. 

She reminded Kiwis to get tested if they have Covid symptoms and to stay isolated until they return a negative test. 

Almost 90 per cent of double vaccinated Kiwis have their My Vaccine Passes. As of today, 3.25 million passes have been downloaded. 

The Government had also sent out 54,500 temporary exemption emails to people who had trouble downloading their passes. 

87% of target population fully vaxxed 

Deputy PM Grant Robertson said the nation heads into the new traffic light system with high vaccination rates, with 93 per cent of eligible people having had one dose. 

Eighty-seven per cent have had both doses of the jab. 

Robertson said the high vaccination rates showed a unified New Zealand, rather than a divided country as some people have tried to portary it. 

Robertson said the Government and its partners had already changed up the way they were targeting unvaccinated people. 

He said setting up a "static" place where people can come to be vaccinated doesn't work any more. Instead, vaccination clinics need to be mobile and go to where the unvaccinated people are. 

McElnay said the new style of promoting vaccinations was working, with the Northland first dose rate now hitting 86 per cent. 

The Waitemata and Canterbury DHBs are now the third and fourth DHBs to hit 90 per cent double-jabbed with the Pfizer vaccination. 

Robertson said that of the five DHB regions yet to hit the 90 per cent single dose mark, Lakes DHB is just 785 doses away, while the West Coast is only 284 doses away. 

Robertson said this will be the last Friday 1pm press conference of the year. There will be more 1pm press conferences next week, but no more on Friday this year. 

When asked why there is still glitches and problems downloading My Vaccine Passes and rules under the traffic light system, Robertson said it is complex to work through setting so many rules for every business. 

He said councils run public facilities but they do have the ability to make their own decisions about whether those accessing their services need to show My Vaccine Passes or not. He just asked that they communicated their requirements to the public clearly. 

'No cause for alarm' in Nelson 

Robertson said there had been excellent testing numbers in the Nelson region - about 1400 yesterday - and that meant officials were confident the virus was spreading as expected in the area. 

McElnay said the public health unit in Nelson was working closely with the school and businesses affected in the area. 

"It is hard to say whether we will get more cases," she said. "But at this stage we have no particular cause for alarm." 

The Nelson region will remain at the orange traffic level with a move to red not on the cards at the moment. 

But Robertson said people with Covid symptoms are tending to go for tests quite late after getting symptoms. He urged them to get tested earlier. 

Northland checkpoints 

Robertson said police will be working with iwi at Northland checkpoints to monitor people coming into the area. 

However, he emphasised they are police checkpoints, set up and manned by police. 

Omnicron variant 

Robertson said the Government doesn't at this point have any advice that the Omnicron variant would require a new system for managing Covid. 

However, if new advice came through that showed it was more serious, officials would act on that, he said. 

McElnay said it did appear the Omnicron variant is seemingly more infectious but studies were ongoing to see whether it caused more serious illnesses and whether it can infect fully vaccinated people easier. 

Health teams are constantly reviewing what is happening around the world, McElnay said, and will in particular check on Monday how the Omnicron variant is travelling in South Africa. 

She said there had been a lot of sharing amongst the scientific community and she was on the phone with colleagues in Australia and South Africa yesterday. 

This meant officials could keep an eye on whether South Africa should be deemed a high risk nation for arriving travellers. 

Answering calls by National Party leader Christopher Luxon to put Auckland in the green traffic light system, Robertson said the Government had always moved cautiously. 

And the "proof is in the pudding" that their actions had worked given by the low infection and death rates in New Zealand, he said. 

He rejected criticism that the traffic light system is complicated. However, he understood it was new and people would still be getting used to it. 

Robertson said it is possible Auckland could move down to a lesser traffic light level before Christmas, but he couldn't pre-empt the decision and it would only be known closer to December 13. 

It comes as Aucklanders have been able to step back into their gyms, swimming pools and favourite restaurants and cafes for the first time in more than 100 days. 

Some keen Aucklanders even flocked into bars last night after they reopened at midnight. 

Ordinary Kiwis and health officials will be keeping a keen eye on how the reopening of "higher risk" businesses goes and whether it increases the virus' spread and hospitalisation numbers. 

Yesterday, there were 172 new Covid community cases, with 124 being in Auckland, 14 in Waikato, four in Bay of Plenty and one in Nelson-Tasman. 

The new case in Nelson was in addition to three cases the day before, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said. 

Eighty-six people were in hospital and nine in intensive care. 

Fifteen of the nation's 20 District Health Board regions now have more than 90 per cent of their eligible populations with at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

However, just two - Auckland and Capital and Coast DHBs - have hit the 90 per cent double-jabbed mark. 

The Government has also announced that Covid-19 jabs for those aged between 5-11 are expected to begin next month, subject to MedSafe approval. 

Day one under the traffic light system 

Day one of the traffic light system marked a great start to the weekend for hospitality business owners in Auckland. 

They dusted off tables and opened their doors to customers again after more than 100 days in a strict Covid-19 lockdown. 

Britomart bistro Ortolana duty manager Ella Xue said she was ecstatic to be back in business this morning. 

"I'm actually very excited. Last night I was hoping today was going to be a smash day." 

About 30 people had been through by 8am, all with their vaccine passes. 

All customers' passes were scanned upon entry and no one had expressed any frustration with the process so far, she said. 

Regular customers Isabelle, Alan and Steve said it was fantastic to be back to their usual spot. 

"We'll definitely come here and help the business. We feel for the cafe," Alan said. 

Some people hit the town at the stroke of midnight, when some Auckland pubs decided to open their doors. 

Headquarters bar owner Leo Molloy told Three's AM Show about 50-80 people came into the bar within the first 40 minutes of opening last night. 

About 350 people had booked in for lunch and he expected a further 300 people as walk-ins. 

Asked if anyone without a vaccination pass tried to get in, Molloy said only one person was turned away because they had an overseas vaccination pass which was not accepted. 

New system a step into the unknown - Professor Shaun Hendy 

But as restrictions are reduced, the reality of Covid is still there and people are reminded to continue to stick to the rules and take safety measures. 

Covid-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy says the move into the traffic light system today indicates a change in response - and only time will tell just how effective it will be. 

"It's a step into the unknown," he told Breakfast. 

"It takes us back, really, to March 2020 when the alert level system was put together. We're just going to have to watch, I think, over the next few months.