Updated vaccine plan reveal ahead of alert level change

Author
Neil Reid, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 7 Sep 2021, 7:23AM

Updated vaccine plan reveal ahead of alert level change

Author
Neil Reid, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 7 Sep 2021, 7:23AM

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As much of New Zealand prepares for life under a new-look Level 2, the Government is preparing to release more information over its roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

From midnight, areas outside of Auckland will move to Delta Level 2; which has several tightening of regulations to the status of the level 2 the country has been placed in previously. 

But Auckland will remain in Level 4 for longer as fresh community cases of the deadly Delta strain continue to be recorded in the country's biggest city, and amid 33 mystery cases of Delta which are yet to be linked to other cases. 

Today's 1pm press conference from the Beehive will feature both the daily case numbers, and also an update on vaccination roll-out; including the potential confirmation of a deal to purchase a large number of Pfizer shots. 

Given the country's dwindling stocks of Pfizer, health bosses need a large shipment of Pfizer to maintain the current pace of the roll-out programme. 

This morning Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking a supply deal would be announced at some stage this week. But he wouldn't specify exactly when. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also confirmed this morning the deal would be made public by Friday at the latest. 

Canada has previously been strongly mooted as the country New Zealand is set to get the urgent extra stocks of Pfizer from. 

Today Hipkins said a multi-country deal "could well be" announced today. 

"It could be within the next 24 to 48 hours," he said. 

The deal for extra Pfizer vaccines could be a multi-country one. Photo / NZME

The deal for extra Pfizer vaccines could be a multi-country one. Photo / NZME 

"I'm aware that other countries announce these things before there's a signed deal ... until we've got absolute confirmation we won't announce it." 

It wasn't just a case of one piece of paper, multiple bits need to be signed by different people and they were "absolutely confident of when vaccines will arrive". 

Of more concern was the still high number of confirmed Delta cases which have not been able to be linked to earlier cases in the outbreak. 

The number constantly stands at 33 cases yet to be linked back. The highest number that figure has been since Delta was recorded in the community last month was 60. 

Hipkins said they didn't necessarily need to know where every single one came from but if they were still seeing a high number of mystery cases each day then that would be a concern. 

Ardern has said she was still concerned about the prevalence of mystery cases. 

One of the mystery cases is the person who went to Middlemore Hospital at the weekend infected where the exact source hasn't been identified. 

High-profile epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker also said while it was pleasing the daily confirmed new cases of Delta had dropped in recent days to being in their 20s, it was of concern that mystery cases still remained. 

He told AM Show given the current situation, it was "absolutely certain" that Auckland's Level 4 status would be extended beyond next week. 

But he remained optimistic that the Delta variant could be eliminated from Auckland. 

Baker also told TVNZ's Breakfast that he hoped level 2 was "short term" and the country could get back to level 1. 

He and other researchers had called for a more stepped level system which would allow for some looser restrictions at the lower levels. 

"It is what it is but...I think there is room for improvement there." 

Life under Delta Level 2 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday what she called "Delta level 2" for the country outside Auckland's borders, to keep up with the more-infectious variant that had "changed the game". 

This means masks in many indoor venues and smaller limits on gatherings, along with other measures to reduce the risk of any community transmission. 

Mask use in schools will be "highly recommended" but not compulsory. 

New rules on scanning also applied at level 2 - mandatory scanning at bars, restaurants, cinemas, churches, hairdressers and anywhere where there was close contact between people. 

As well, there will be a limit of 50 people at hospitality and event venues, while outdoor venues can have up to 100 people. 

Distancing requirements had increased from one to two metres, meaning venues not captured by the crowd limits would also have reduced capacity at level 2. 

The alert level move came off the back of three days of cases hovering around 20 daily - well down on the peak of 84 just over a week ago. 

The alert level change has been welcomed by experts, with most calling for a level 2 shift ahead of the announcement. 

Otago University's Professor Nick Wilson said that, along with keeping places like pubs, restaurants, gyms and churches shut at level 2, the Government could have imposed more comprehensive indoor mask requirements.