Covid-19 Delta outbreak: 100 new Covid cases today, protesters target Prime Minister in Whanganui

There are 100 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today – 97 are in Auckland and three are in the Waikato.

There are no new cases in Northland today. The first result for the two mystery Northland cases is expected back tonight. The other is expected back tomorrow.

There are 58 people in hospital. Three people in ICU. Not all of those in hospital, however, are there because Covid is their primary diagnosis. For instance, some are pregnant.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled a scheduled 12.45pm press conference from Whanganui, where she is promoting the vaccinations rollout (see details below).

Fifteen residents and four staff members of Edmonton Meadows Care Home in Henderson have now returned positive tests.

Three of the Covid-19 positive residents are receiving appropriate ward-level care at North Shore Hospital.

Of the Waikato cases, two are from Hamilton and one is from Ôtorohanga. Two are known contacts and were already in isolation and with daily public health contact and support.

There are no new cases in Christchurch again today, however there are still 4 active cases who are in quarantine. There remain 22 Locations of Interest in Canterbury – no new locations have been added in recent days.

Test results from additional wastewater samples collected in Christchurch are expected later today.

A person from Myanmar is today in police custody in Gisborne after jumping off a ship at sea near Young Nicks Head last night.

They were picked up at sea and was admitted to hospital suffering from hypothermia.

The person was tested for Covid-19, returned a negative result and been discharged from hospital.

The ship remains anchored 3km offshore.

More Pfizer vaccines purchased

The Government, meanwhile, has signed a purchase agreement for an additional 4.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

They will be available throughout next year and be used for 5-11 years olds and a booster programme, among other things, Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins says.

They could also be used in the Pacific if needed.

There are currently 2.8 million doses in country and the Government expects another 1.5 million before the end of the year.

Hipkins and director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield are delivering today’s Covid case numbers.

Booster shots will be discussed by ministers soon, Bloomfield said.

“There was only one randomised” trial on this, Bloomfield said. But it did seem to reduce hospitalisation and serious illness.

The median time in that study between doses was 11 months. No one in New Zealand has been vaccinated that long, Bloomfield said.

Officials are ready to examine use of the Pfizer vaxx for 5-11 year olds “in the next few weeks”, Bloomfield says.

“At this point, no other countries (aside from the US) have approved Pfizer for 5-11 year olds to this point.”

“In the meantime, the best we can do to protect younger members … is for everybody else who is eligible to get vaccinated.”

Hipkins said it could be up to 11 or 12 months before boosters are doled out in NZ.

“There will be a minimum period of time between the second dose and the first dose.”

Severely immunocompromised people should go to primary care for third doses, Bloomfield said.

“There’s a clear list on the ministry’s website of the conditions that are specifically included in that group.”

They should contact their GP if they haven’t been contacted already.

Around a million of next year’s doses will be for 5-11s, Bloomfield said.

“The timing will be very much dependent on the supply,” he said of the 5-11 rollout.

The booster rollout would be phased in, Hipkins said.

“We’ve had a low hospitalisation rate” in Auckland. “So that decision to vaccinate the over 65s (first) was sthe right decision.”

Vaccination rates

“It’s good to see that five DHBs have already hit that milestone” of 90 percent vaccinated, Hipkins said.

“It shows that this is doable. Keep being creative and innovative and work with your communities.”

Nationwide, 76 percent of people are fully vaccinated.

There are 92 per cent of people with a first dose in Auckland metro DHBs and 81 per cent of people are double-jabbed.

Waikato DHB has 87 per cent with single dose and 73 per cent with both vaccinations.

Canterbury DHB has 92 per cent of residents having had their first dose, and 75 per cent for both.

Among the country’s Mâori population, there are now 73 per cent who have had their first dose and 54 per cent are fully vaccinated.

For Pacific Peoples, first doses have reached 86 per cent and 70 per cent for fully vaccinated.

Hipkins: “We are getting to tht point where demand for first doses is really starting to tail off now.”

“We’re really leaning into those communities” where rates are lower, and are also setting up after-hours vax centres to help people who work odd hours.

“Yes, I am concerned about it and yes, we are doing everything we can – leaving no stone unturned,” he said.

Border cases

Bloomfield says there are 10 new cases in managed isolation today.

The first person arrived from Serbia and Montenegro via United Arab Emirates on October 23. They tested positive on day 6 and are isolating in Auckland.

Three flew into New Zealand on October 27 via Singapore. One is a contact of a case in Auckland, two others were picked up via routine testing. All three are in facilities in Auckland.

Also on October 27, a traveller flew in from Scotland via Singapore and is in MIQ in Auckland.

Three travellers from the United Kingdom – who also flew via Singapore, are isolating in Wellington and one person flew direct from Japan arriving on October 31. They are isolating in Christchurch.

With regards people who have recovered from Covid around the country, in Auckland there are 1649 of a total 3553 cases, 45 of Waikato’s 144 cases, three of Northland’s 14 cases and all of Wellington’s 17 cases. There is still one active case in Nelson/Marlborough and four in Canterbury.

Testing rates

Yesterday saw just over 28,000 tests – “this continues to be a high number,” Bloomfield said.

In Northland, there was widespread community testing and vaccination yesterday, but no new cases.

As for vaccination rates of DHBs with active Covid cases, Northland DHB has 80 per cent of people who have had their first dose, and 65 per cent fully vaccinated.

“There are plenty of opportunities to be both tested and vaccinated”, especially in Northland. “Please do take up those opportunities.”

In Waikato, two of today’s cases are in Hamilton and one in Otorohanga. Two are known to be connected to existing cases – the other remains under investigation.

In Christchurch, more wastewater samples are expected later today.

“The labs are under a lot of pressure. Labs are working to share samples across the country.

“We continue to look closely at how we can get those results back as quickly as we can.”

Tests in the Far North will be processed locally in Northland when urgent. They’ll be sent to Auckland when not a priority.

Isolating for positive cases

“We still have rooms available … to accomodate positive cases,” Hipkins said, but officials were moving more now toward isolating at home unless there’s a reason not to.

Vaccination mandates, certificates and exemptions

For vaccine mandates and certificates, the Government is establishing a process for exemptions.

“There will be a similar, related process for people who need a vaccine certificate to go about their daily business.”

“We will publicise it early next week.”

People can apply online. “It will be a centralised process.”

If you’ve received paperwork, “you will stil need to apply through a centralised process. If you have paid for that paperwork, you might want to ask for a refund.”

This will be “the only valid process” through which exemption paperwork can be obtained.

Hipkins says there have been reports of people “aggressivingly demanding exemptions from clinicians”.

That’s not acceptable, he said.

“That is a matter the police wil be involved with if necessary.”

“If someone is offering to sell you an exemption … they are trying to rip you off. Don’t do it.”

If Auckland hits 90 percent and no vax certificate system in place yet, what happens?

Hipkins said: “The stress testing of that system is happening now as we speak.

“We’ll have the system ready to go before Auckland hits the 90 per cent mark.”

People need to create their MyHealth record now, so they can simply switch on the certificate when it’s ready. That’s the most time consuming part, he said.

The My Covid Record website tells you when you had your two vaccines.

Saturday marks three weeks since Super Saturday, so reminders will be sent out to people who are now due their second jab, Hipkins said.

Hipkins said it is “notoriously difficult to predict” which DHBs will be the last to reach 90 percent.

“How long will we wait? The end of November is the time Cabinet will be checking in …

“We’ve made a committment not to leave people behind.”

But if people choose to be left behind “that doesn’t mean we’re going to hold everyone else up.”

Northland border rules

Hipkins said officials were not enforcing a hard border in the north of Northland: “It’s more similar to the Waikato arrangement.

“The main message at alert level 3 .. .is people should be staying home. We want people to be minimising their activities as muchas possible … while we try to identify the sources of these two particular cases.”

Tonga case

The Tonga case has been reclassigfied now as a historic case.

Tonga officials were right in taking a very conservative approach, Bloomfield said.

“Using our criteria here, we would classify it as a historical case.”

DNA sequencing was inconclusive.

“There’s often not enough genetic material to do a genomic test,” Hipkins said.

“It’s virtually impossible to get a whole genome sequence” in a case like that.

PM's press conference canned

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancelled a 12.45pm press conference from Whanganui, where she is promoting the vaccinations rollout.

A group of about 250 protesters gathered outside the vaccination centre Ardern was planning to visit, blocking the entrance, and the stand-up was subsequently canned.

The PM’s press conference is now scheduled to be held elsewhere at 1.10pm.

Whanganui has the third lowest vaccination rate of the DHBs – 81 per cent of its eligible population have had one dose and 61 per cent have had two doses.It follows the PM’s visit to Northland yesterday just before the far North of Northland was put into lockdown.

Ardern is in Whanganui to warn lower-vaccinated regions that the Government will not be able to contain Delta in Auckland indefinitely so they should get vaccinated before it spreads more widely.

Whanganui MP Steph Lewis and Te Tai Hauauru MP Adrian Rurawhe turned up the clinic, but swiftly left as the group of protesters grew.

The protesters also confronted media, accusing journalists of being paid off by the Government.

There was a significant police presence at the protest, which grew after protesters began moving onto the road.

Whanganui-based National List MP Harete Hipango also showed up, but left after about 10 minutes.

Hipkins was asked about Ardern’s press conference being relocated.

“Her presence combined with the presence of anti-vax protesters was actually preventing people from coming forward and getting vaccinated.”

Is momentum gaining within the anti-vax movement, he was asked.

Hipkins said people bus themselves in.

“There’s a very small group” that is active around the country, he said.

Yesterday, Ardern was around Kawakawa in Northland, well south of the lockdown area. Anti-vaxxers shouted through her media conference, forcing her to abandon it and move indoors to continue it.

The 1pm update will also deliver a further update on the two mystery cases of Covid-19 which were picked up in Kaingaroa, near Taipa in Doubtless Bay.

The inability to find a possible link with other cases in the outbreak prompted yesterday’s decision to put the far north of Northland into a six-day level 3 lockdown yesterday.

In a last-minute press conference at 5.30pm yesterday, Bloomfield said the two people concerned had kept good records but no likely link had been found with other cases, and the lockdown would allow some time to try to find that link and check for any undetected transmission.

The Government is still pursing elimination strategy outside of Auckland, while it waits for vaccination rates to lift. Hipkins has said that if Northland’s vaccination rate was higher, it might not have required the level 3 lockdown, but there was a lot of mis-information circulating in Northland.

The Government is also expected to unveil some details about the supplies of booster shots for next year – a fortnight ago Hipkins said the booster shots were now expected to start before Christmas.

So far, only those with who are seriously immunocompromised have been told to get third shots of Pfizer, at least eight weeks after their second shot.

International evidence has indicated Pfizer’s effectiveness against Delta starts to wane after six to seven months. That mark has been reached for the first of those vaccinated in New Zealand: the border and health workers, as well as those most vulnerable.

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