Auckland may be “tantalisingly close” to reaching the coveted 90 per cent Covid-19 vaccination target, but its border is likely to remain until jab rates in other parts of the country climb, the director general of health says.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield was questioned by multiple media outlets today ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting, during which alert levels are set to be decided for Auckland, Northland and Waikato. Ahead of the Prime Minister’s 4pm press conference on alert levels, the latest Covid-19 numbers are due in a statement by the Ministry of Health at 1pm.
Bloomfield told Breakfast this morning a level 4 circuit-breaker had been proposed and “actively considered”.
He said: “That’s something that has been proposed … it’s something we’ve actively considered and importantly I’ve asked for advice from my team but also from the public health teams on the ground in Tāmaki Makaurau that’s informed our advice to the prime minister.”
Meanwhile a Remuera Gardens rest home worker has tested positive for Covid and was at work while infectious.
The worker is partially vaccinated and Auckland Regional Public Health Service say the risk posed is low.
The rest home is now arranging for all residents to have the opportunity to have a Covid test as a precaution.
It says 98 per cent of staff and 96 per cent of residents at Remuera Gardensare double vaccinated.
Auckland at 90% fully vaccinated in just over a month
Just under 90 per cent of Aucklanders have had at least one dose of the vaccine – with 9039 first jabs administered across the region during the “Super Saturday” vaccination push. But Bloomfield told RNZ that current modelling shows it will take Auckland just over a month before 90 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated with both doses.
While hitting 90 per cent for first jabs is a good milestone, Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB he prefers to see people fully vaccinated.
And even after the double-jab objective is met, those wanting to visit or leave Auckland will need to look at statistics outside the region, Bloomfield said, suggesting that other parts of the country will need to step up vaccination rates as well for the quarantine border to be removed.
Bloomfield told TVNZ’s Breakfast he thought New Zealand was still doing “really well” in comparison with other countries, including Australia, but more work needs to be done.
He acknowledged that Super Saturday’s event had seen many people who had been on the fence about vaccination finally come out to get their first jab.
Bloomfield said community leaders and community health providers in the Pacific and Māori promoting vaccination had helped hugely in boosting vaccinations in those communities over the weekend.
He also touted the Super Saturday turnout on Newstalk ZB but acknowledged to host Mike Hosking that first jab rates were a bit slower than expected. They are still going up, however, Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield said the areas of New Zealand currently under lockdown are different from Melbourne and Sydney, which are opening up at 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates. Their rates were still coming down and hospitalisation rates weren’t going up, however Bloomfield said that was because people were vaccinated.
The best way to stop people ending up in hospital is to get people vaccinated, he said, adding that he doesn’t want hundreds and hundreds of cases.
Hosking said hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne were not being overwhelmed. However, Bloomfield said they were still under pressure.
Asked about Northland’s lockdown, Bloomfield said they hadn’t seen any cases in recent days which was good, but officials still aren’t clear where the two uncooperative cases had been.
Meanwhile, Bloomfield described Waikato’s lockdown as an “interesting” case, pointing out that there were new cases announced over the weekend. He said he has passed his advice on to Cabinet, which is set to discuss the options today, but he declined to elaborate.
The framework will be announced this afternoon for a new “traffic light” system to deal with the pandemic, he said.
On TVNZ, Bloomfield said a return to level 4 for Auckland, intended to act as a “circuit breaker”, has been proposed by a number of people.
“It’s something that we’ve actively considered and importantly, I’ve asked for advice from my team.
“But also from the public health teams on the ground in Tāmaki Makaurau and that’s informed our advice to the Prime Minister.
“And Cabinet will be considering that this afternoon.”
He said he would not go into any more detail about that particular aspect until Cabinet met and ultimately announced a decision later this afternoon.
Speaking about the large party held on Auckland’s North Shore on Saturday night, breaching lockdown restrictions, he said although he was disappointed, it would be more disappointed for Aucklanders who had done the hard yards over the last two months.
He had a message for those people breaking lockdown rules.
“To those who are doing those things – just don’t.
“It’s not going to help and it’s not going to help Auckland come down out of the alert level 3 restrictions sooner.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to speak with the media about the latest developments at 4pm today during her weekly post-Cabinet press conference.