No new community cases; Minister defends stance on info given to KFC worker

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Mar 2021, 1:01PM

No new community cases; Minister defends stance on info given to KFC worker

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Mar 2021, 1:01PM

There are no new Covid-19 cases in the community today.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins describes the result as good news, although he re-iterates the country is still in a "critical period" regarding the Auckland outbreak.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it's still a very long tunnel," he said.

Hipkins said New Zealanders still had a lot of hard yards to do over the next year despite vaccines being on the horizon.

Cabinet will meet to discuss alert levels on Friday, and receives information right up until the meeting begins.

Hipkins also blasted Destiny Church leaders Brian and Hannah Tamaki for leaving Auckland on the eve of lockdown and their plan to tour the country.

He called the behaviour "completely irresponsible".

On the Women's Rugby World Cup New Zealand is to host being postponed until next year, Hipkins said that was probably a good idea and it would have been a challenge to get everyone through MIQ. He noted the decision to postpone was not made by the Government.

Two new cases in MIQ

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield says there are two new cases in MIQ facilities. One is historical and the other flew from India.

When asked if the results made him more optimistic the outbreak could be contained, Bloomfield said he felt optimistic "every day" but warned for caution.

Every close contact had been contacted. The only ones outstanding related to the timing of testing, he said.

A "high number" of casual and casual plus had been contacted and were also waiting for timings for tests.

People need to be tested five days after their exposure.

The outbreak

Bloomfield said there was "very clear instructions" in letters sent to the Papatoetoe High School community that families needed to be tested. And the KFC worker was actually symptomatic but wasn't tested, he said.

"The reality is there certainly is enough information there that the person shouldn't have been going to work."

Regarding a Covid-19 Response comment on a Covid-19 Facebook post, Bloomfield said that wasn't the Ministry of Health page and was general advice, not specific advice to families.

Bloomfield said everyone who is symptomatic should be tested quickly.

Hipkins said "pile-ons ... simply don't help with our communications" and abuse and bullying "isn't okay".

"I don't think putting facts out there is doing that," said Hipkins about whether the Government caused the family to be vilified online.

Bloomfield said he didn't think putting a Section 70 order on the whole school would have led to a better testing uptake, because 98 per cent of staff and students were tested. That was a credit to the school's leadership and communication, he said.

9000 people now vaccinated

More than 9000 people have now received the Covid-19 vaccine, Hipkins said.

The next shipment of Pfizer vaccine has arrived, sothe households of frontline border workers can now be vaccinated.

The next group of people to be offered vaccines are the 57,000 non-border facing frontline health workers.

This will also help prevent those people passing the virus onto their communities, Hipkins said.

He thanked those who had agreed to being vaccinated because they were protecting us as well as themselves.

Hipkins said the number of people who had refused the vaccine wouldn't be clear until later because some people might not yet have been offered them.

On National's call to compensate everyone for 100 per cent of their wages if they had to self-isolate, Hipkins noted National hadn't costed the policy.

"At this point we're not proposing to make any further changes."

More than half of New Zealand's estimated 12,000 border workforce have received their first vaccinations, Hipkins says.

As of midnight Tuesday, 9431 people had received their first doses. More than 70 per cent of those - 6688 people - have been delivered in Auckland.

"We are well on our way to ensuring those who are most at risk of Covid-19, the cleaners, nurses who carry out health checks in MIQ, security staff, customs and border officials, hotel workers, airline staff, port authorities and vaccinators will be protected from this virus," Hipkins said.

"I'm also pleased to confirm that a third shipment of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrived safely yesterday afternoon, which adds a further 65,500 doses, bringing the total number of Covid-19 vaccines in New Zealand to 200,000.

The rollout plan

"From here, we plan to ramp up the vaccination programme, as we move to vaccinate border worker's families and household contacts. We will then move on to frontline health and emergency staff – those people who may be exposed to Covid-19 while doing their jobs."

Border worker's families and household contacts will start to be vaccinated in earnest next week, but in some smaller regions, district health boards have already been able to expand their programmes to include these groups.

"In places like Nelson/Marlborough, the smaller workforce has meant the border workers and their families have been vaccinated at the same time, with the same batch of doses. This is really good news as it means they will also be protected from the virus, and ahead of schedule.

"I look forward to this rolling out in our main centres from next week."

On the contact tracing system's performance, recent analysis shows 87 per cent of close contacts were traced within 48 hours.

Eleven community testing stations are open in Auckland today with most in South and East Auckland.

On waiting for test results, if you are symptomatic you should stay home until you get your test results back.

And if you're being tested as part of the Valentine's cluster you should follow instructions from their public health unit.

Meanwhile, police say they are pleased with motorists' co-operation at the 10 Auckland checkpoints.

A total of 54,633 vehicles were stopped at checkpoints between 6am on Sunday and 3.30pm on Tuesday.

During that period 822 vehicles were turned away – 240 at the northern checkpoints and 582 at the southern checkpoints.

Hipkins today rejected suggestions the continued lockdown was embarrassing when there were no new cases. He told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking it was "encouraging".

He stood by the decision to move Auckland to level 3.

"I think we're back to where we were two weeks ago. Ultimately we want to get out of lockdown as soon as we can. We're working at speed to make sure we can get decisions as quick as we can."

The last thing he wanted was to go back into lockdown, he said.

He revealed "eight or nine thousand" people had been vaccinated already. This was ahead of schedule.

Test results due to come back included people who had come into contact with a 21-year-old man, dubbed Case M, who visited a number of places in South Auckland when he would have been infectious.

He is a student at the Manukau Institute of Technology. He visited the campus several times and on several days last week.

A total of 21 people connected to MIT are now regarded as close contacts. So far, their tests have come back negative.

Health officials are also keeping a close eye on people who were at City Fitness Papatoetoe, which Case M visited on Saturday, February 20 and on Friday, February 26.

The Ministry of Health has identified 158 gymgoers linked to the gym, in Hunters Plaza, considered to be casual plus contacts.

Of particular importance are those who were at the gym on Friday, when the man visited after getting a Covid test.

Those gymgoers will be get tested for the first time today - as testing either on or after day five when someone has been exposed to an infected person is regarded as the prime time to test.