49 new cases, lowest in six days; six babies have virus; probe into how Delta got loose hits 'dead end'

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 31 Aug 2021, 12:48PM

49 new cases, lowest in six days; six babies have virus; probe into how Delta got loose hits 'dead end'

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 31 Aug 2021, 12:48PM


Six babies under the age of one have caught Covid-19 in the Delta outbreak, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield says.

Bloomfield said that news was "sobering", although none of the children who have tested positive are in hospital.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said having six children under 1 with Covid-19 reminds her of how important widespread vaccination is.

There are 49 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today - the lowest in six days, Bloomfield said. Ardern said it's too early to say if daily case numbers are plateauing.

Prison officer tests positive

A Corrections officer at Springhill prison has tested positive for the virus. There are 23 staff who had contact with that person. They are isolating and getting tested. There are 123 inmates in the unit where the staffer worked, they have been segregated and all will be tested.

The Corrections officer was fully vaccinated and is considered part of the Auckland outbreak as the guard lives in the city.

The prison officer was asymptomatic.

'Breaking chains of transmission'

Sixty-six per cent of new cases reported yesterday were household contacts. Seventy-seven per cent did not create any exposure events.

Of the cases reported yesterday, only 23 per cent are considered to be infectious in the community.

The cases could have been visiting the supermarket or have been an essential worker, Bloomfield.

The reproduction rate is remaining under 1, and "we are successfully breaking chains of transmission," Bloomfield.

Thirty three people are in hospital, 8 in ICU, two are being ventilated.

The youngest person in hospital is 18, Bloomfield said. Two-thirds of cases in the outbreak are under the age of 34.

Most of the people in hospital with Covid-19 are in older age groups, Bloomfield said. It seems hospitalisation rate of Delta is twice of other strains, he said and noted that 6 - 7 per cent of cases are in hospital.

Bloomfield reminded people that it is safe to receive hospital-level care under alert level protocols.

There were 16,755 tests processed nationwide yesterday.

The 7-day rolling average for tests is 31,600 per day.

Just over 76,350 doses of the vaccine were administered yesterday - around 20,000 more than expected at this time,

There are some sites that have not been able to operate under alert level 4 restrictions, but people can and should re-book their vaccination, Bloomfield said.

How did Delta get into community?

Ardern says she "lies awake at night" trying to work out how the Delta strain got into the community. The outbreak is linked to a returnee at the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility. How it got from that facility into the wider public remains a mystery.

The Government is still unsure how the variant travelled from the Crowne Plaza into the community. Many scenarios have turned out to be "dead ends", Bloomfield said.

"Now we're left with theories that don't have people to people contact, but simply the air," Ardern said.

The Crowne Plaza continues to be empty. Ventilation specialists are doing another assessment of the building to see if anything can be improved.

Ardern said MIQ is still fit for purpose despite the community outbreak, but the transmissions shows "just how tricky" Delta is.

New Covid variant

A new Covid variant identified in South Africa has been detected in New Zealand - and there are warnings it is worse than Delta.

A new preprint study by South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases warns the new variant has "mutated substantially" and is more mutations away from the original virus detected in Wuhan than any other variant previously detected.

The new variant, known as C. 1.2, first emerged in South Africa but has also been detected here, as well as England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Portugal and Switzerland.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed today to the Herald that a case of the new variant was identified at the border in Auckland in late June 2021.

"It's not causing a problem here, it will be interesting to see if it becomes more transmissible and a more dominant variant, but at the moment it's a variant of interest," said Bloomfield.

PM's golden rules for alert level 3

Regions outside of Northland and Auckland move to alert level 3 at midnight tonight.

Ardern said some people who are isolated and who need child care support can bring another person into their bubble under alert level 3.

Contactless delivery can occur but all staff are legally required to wear a mask for outwardly facing businesses such as supermarkets and petrol stations.

The "golden rules" for everyone south of Auckland: Keep your distance from people, continue working from home if possible and keep children at home with you. They should only go to school if parents are essential workers.

Public venues remain closed such as gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets.

Travel is restricted for work for those needing to pick up goods in a contactless way.

From tomorrow anyone aged 12 or older can book a vaccine.

Funerals, weddings and Tangihanga are allowed for up to 10 people.

Businesses must be contactless and meet requirements such as wearing face coverings to operate.

Boundary rules: Personal travel between alert levels is highly limited, Ardern said.

West Auckland flooding

Ardern also issued an update on the wild weather in West Auckland today and said fire and emergency staff responded to 370 incidents involving flooding, power lines and trees down.

If people are in need in shelter, they should report to the Auckland Council building in Henderson, Ardern said.

Emergency situations and evacuation advice overrides alert level advice, the prime minister said.

There will be some bubbles by necessity that are joining others simply because they need shelter, Ardern said.