PM: Expect to wear masks on public transport, flights for 'foreseeable future'

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Nov 2020, 9:20AM

PM: Expect to wear masks on public transport, flights for 'foreseeable future'

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 16 Nov 2020, 9:20AM

The Prime Minister has indicated masks will be made compulsory on Auckland public transport and flights for the "foreseeable future".

Cabinet meets today to discuss making masks mandatory on planes and Auckland public transport in a bid to prevent further community transmission of Covid-19.

The new rules could be in force as early as Thursday, though some experts say the public health order should be broadened to give more protection against the deadly virus.

It follows a community infection scare last week after an AUT student tested positive for the virus after going to work and visiting various other business in the central city while potentially infectious.

Ardern said today while wearing maks on public transport would immediately impact Auckland commuters, the extent it would impact the rest of the country was under discussion. She said cabinet would be taking a "proportionate" approach.

"No one wants Covid to be with us but for long as it is these precautions are necessary for the foreseeable - we're not talking about short term here."

The Prime Minister this morning told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking while mask-wearing on public transport would immediately impact Auckland commuters, the extent it would impact the rest of the country was under discussion.

She said the cabinet would be taking a proportionate approach.

Ardern today defended the move to request Auckland's CBD workers to stay home Friday saying it was a necessary move which took into account the various risks.

She said it allowed for 24 hours of caution to establish the link with the existing cases.

It enabled time to get the genome sequencing ahead of taking more drastic action.

"Had that case come back and not been linked with the one we had in the inner city then that would indicate a much bigger problem," she said.

The alternative was to not do anything, cross your fingers and then see unchecked community spread.

"I don't want that," she said.

Cabinet would be discussing the mandatory use of masks today, Ardern confirmed.

If adopted mask use would be required for the "foreseeable future".

"We're thinking about places that it's hard to trace people," she said, referring to buses.

Yesterday a neighbour of the AUT student was confirmed as a positive case following further investigations.

There were also two new cases; both are returnees in managed isolation.

The new case connected to the Defence Force cluster was confirmed after returning a "weak positive" result on Saturday.

The person's initial test was negative but a further test picked up the weak positive result which officials investigated further.

The Ministry of Health said the test results indicated a "very recent infection".

The neighbour was classed as a close contact of the AUT student - also known as Case D - who lives in the Vincent Residences and attended work last week at A-Z Collection on High St despite being unwell.

The neighbour has been in the Auckland quarantine facility since November 12.

The Auckland Regional Public Health Unit has also identified seven close contacts and three casual contacts. All have been contacted and testing arranged.

Testing for all 10 contacts was expected to be completed by last night.

There are no places of interest identified to date for this latest case.

The other two cases in managed isolation are returnees from the UK and Dubai. Both have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

The number of active cases is 58 and the total number of confirmed cases is now 1645.

The Ministry of Health said increased demand for community testing continued over the weekend across Auckland's testing network.

More than 10,500 tests were processed on Saturday, bringing the total completed to date to 1.17 million tests.

Saturday was the highest number of tests processed in one day at a weekend since August 16.

Almost 70 per cent of the testing was in the Auckland region and 10 per cent in the Wellington region.

The ministry was continuing to ask people who were at the locations of interest to get a test regardless of whether they had symptoms.

A list of testing sites can be found on the ARPHS website.

The latest community infection has also sparked an increase in Covid Tracer App poster scans.

On Saturday, the highest number of poster scans was recorded since September 26; there were more than 1.1m scans and more than 500,000 people using the app.

But that represents just 21 per cent of the 2.3 million people who've downloaded the app.
The Ministry is imploring people to use the app.

"It is encouraging to see that many New Zealanders are responding to the call to get back into the habit of scanning the QR codes.

"The ministry continues to encourage everyone to scan the QR codes wherever they see them, as the more we all scan, the safer we'll all be.

"The faster we can contact trace, the quicker we can get ahead of the virus and prevent spread in the community."