COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will update the media today at 1pm.
>> Kia ora koutou katoa good afternoon.
Shortly I will provide an update on the Alert Level settings on Waikato and Northland but first an update from Dr Bloomfield.
>> Thank you, kia ora koutou katoa.
We have 55 new community cases to report, 53 in Auckland and two in Waikato.
Our total number of cases in this outbreak is 1719.
Of these, 1188 have recovered.
There are no new cases to report in managed isolation among returnees from abroad.
Of today's 55 cases, 26 are yet to be linked to a current case but interviews on many are still to start.
Of yesterday's 43 cases, 10 remain unlinked with investigations ongoing.
There are 32 people in hospital with COVID-19 today, six requiring the ICU or high dependency unit level care.
One is being ventilated.
All are in the Auckland region bar one at Waikato Hospital and one remains in Palmerston North Hospital.
Good testing again in Auckland yesterday, just under 13,000 swabs taken and 25,799 swabs processed across the motu.
To date, since the start of the outbreak labs across the country have processed almost 1.
1 million tests.
That is a huge effort and thank you to everyone who has been tested, and our staff who take the swabs and process them.
We spoke yesterday about the processing times for tests.
The benchmark we have is 24 hours, 80% of tests should be processed within 24 hours.
I can say from Monday this week for example 90% of all tests were processed within that 24- hour period.
On the Waikato, two community cases, they are members of the same household who live in Hamilton and are being transferred today to the local Hamilton based quarantine facility.
At this point the two cases have not been linked to others in the outbreak based on initial interviews but those are ongoing.
There is only a limited number of exposure events outside the household, and please keep your eyes on our website for any locations of interest.
Great vaccination rates across Waikato again yesterday so thank you to everybody who came out to be vaccinated.
A quick update on the second person who had been located a couple of days ago who travelled to Northland.
There was a further interview yesterday, but at this stage there are no further locations of interest from that visit by those two people to Northland.
I continue to encourage people across Northland to get tested, especially if you are symptomatic.
Yesterday, there were nearly 1800 swabs taken in the region which is excellent, right across the region.
Today there are testing sites open in Kaitaia, Kirikiri, fine a and Dargaville and others.
For the details see the website.
There are vaccination centres in all those places as well - Whangarei.
There is some information in media about an Auckland based delivery driver who travelled to Northland on 9 October and subsequently tested positive.
They are being assessed at the moment to determine if there are any exposure events but at this stage it seems like it is low risk, the journey.
The person was there from 3am till 12pm delivering to a number of places most of which were closed because of the Alert Level 3 arrangements.
If there are any locations of interest they will of course, upon our website.
As part of the Auckland cases, we have been advised there was an adult who is a teacher in an Auckland early learning service centre that tested positive yesterday.
This person has had one dose of vaccine, and the infectious period has been assessed as commencing on 8 October.
At this stage there are 11 close contacts including six children who were in two separate bubbles of three each, being supervised by that person.
All those who are close contacts have been identified so this is an exposure event rather than a location of interest and the early learning service won't therefore be listed on our website as a location of interest.
We previously referred to an exposure event at the dialysis unit adjacent to North Shore Hospital.
There are now a total of two patients and two staff members who have tested positive as part of that.
There are very strict precautions and measures in place to ensure that anyone accessing that dialysis unit now will be kept safe, including screening everyone coming in and of course very rigid use of PPE and intensive cleaning between each session of dialysis.
The staff are undergoing rapid antigen testing before they start each shift as well, and all results as you can imagine this morning were negative for those staff still working in the unit.
In this phase of the website you will just be able to view your record.
You will need to create an account and then you'll be able to access your record, which is available for people 16 and over.
At this stage only for people 16+.
From late November people will be able to access two types of vaccination certificate.
One for use in New Zealand and one for travel overseas.
In the meantime there is a process in place for people to receive a letter of confirmation of their vaccination status from the Ministry of Health.
That process will remain in place and anyone under 16, 12- 15, who has been vaccinated can continue to use that process to get confirmation of their vaccination status.
>> Thank you.
based on the information, ministers have decided that the parts of Waikato that have been at Alert Level 3 and Northland will remain at Alert Level 3 until 11:59pm on Monday, 18 October.
Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 on step one of the stepped transition that was outlined earlier.
Waikato has done a phenomenal job over the last few weeks, getting tested and vaccinated.
The region has achieved a record increase in the number of people vaccinated within one week of recording a 5% jump in first doses.
Thank you to everyone who went and got vaccinated to keep themselves and their whanau and the community safe.
And a big thank you to people and Northland who have been getting tested and vaccinated.
In Northland there were 19,000 1691 vaccinations in the last seven days.
That is more than double the rate of vaccinations delivered in the previous week.
And we want to see that momentum continue -- 19,691.
Adding information from the two cases who travelled around the region while they are infectious and now in quarantine has remained slow going.
So the best thing people can do in Northland right now is to get tested if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, even if those symptoms are mild.
Delta is a highly infectious virus and almost everyone it has infected so far has been unvaccinated.
Just 3% of cases in this outbreak have been vaccinated, so I want to reiterate again the best thing people can do to protect themselves and their whanau is to get vaccinated.
Today we have had a significant milestone in our vaccination campaign.
I was told on the way here 6 million doses of vaccine have now been delivered across New Zealand.
That's a big number.
And we are seeing some really encouraging other numbers as well.
Half of the total population of New Zealand getting vaccinated.
Of the eligible population 75% have either been fully vaccinated or they are booked in for their second dose to get fully vaccinated.
That is three quarters of the eligible population in New Zealand who will soon have a really high level of protection from COVID-19, that is usually reassuring.
If you have already been vaccinated, a big thank you.
But let's get the rest of New Zealand out to be vaccinated this week and into next weekend.
Talk to your friends, your family, your workmates and help them to get vaccinated.
I want to run through more details.
Over the coming days you'll see sports stars, actors, health professionals, many familiar faces throwing their weight behind the vaccination campaign.
The Vaxathon details announced yesterday are continuing to take shape.
On Saturday we will have general practices, pharmacies, community providers all vaccinating throughout the day.
We have got 100 additional vaccination sites opened on Saturday around the country including a drive-through here at Sky Stadium in Wellington through to pop up vaccination sites at farmers markets and sporting events.
Many of our existing sites are offering extended hours.
Members of parliament and community leaders are working together to try and turn people out to be vaccinated.
Will be dedicated sites for those with disabilities, including New Zealand sign language interpreters, accessible parking, ramps, flat entrances, low sensory spaces and access more information around the vaccine will be provided.
A couple of examples of some of the innovative things people can expect to see, vaccination camper vans are heading up and down the country.
Especially in the north.
Department of Conversation is offering their four-wheel-drive cars and boats to help drive people in remote areas to get vaccinated.
In New Zealand is turning one of their Boeing 787 Dreamliner is into a vaccination clinic at Auckland airport.
On super Saturday I am told people will be vaccinated in business class before weighing out their time in economy class with some snacks provided.
Other companies have done things, George Brewery has rebranded their lager with the tagline 'for legends that vaccinate' and expect to see sausages or is, coffee cards and other activities taking place.
The goal is very clear, it is to get New Zealanders vaccinated.
What does success look like?
It looks like getting New Zealanders vaccinated whether it is one person or 15 people that you convince to be vaccinated over the coming days, all of that is success and leading to a successful outcome.
Final word on Super Saturday we're still getting queries for people who want to be involved.
There is a dedicated email address help vaccinate help [email protected] for those who have ideas or they want to offer additional contributions to the national effort over the coming days.
>> We understand why Auckland >> We have two aces in Waikato and we can go back to the prior outbreak we were dealing with and we were dealing with that in the middle of the Waikato and there was escalation and those types of circumstances and we certainly want to step down the lead levels in Waikato when we have this level and we don't yet have full understanding of who else might be in the chain of transmission there.
>> Why are they saying they will keep it for another week because this is unsettling for people.
>> It is possible we could have gained more information in the early part of this week and that would have given us more confidence but we have not been able to.
>> Sought the boundary needs to be significantly tightened.
Why are you dragging your heels on this?
>> I don't think we are dragging our heels.
We are always looking at tightening the restrictions we have in place but it is not possible to have no movement in and out of Auckland which is what some would argue for and the reality is we have to have goods moving in and out of Auckland and some people and it is not feasible for us to completely isolate Auckland from the rest of the country.
We try to make sure the movement at the border is as safe as possible and we are looking to strengthen that but it is not feasible just to isolate it.
>> Yesterday you said you were looking at changing this across the boundary.
What are these?
>> It is reviewing the testing requirement for essential workers who have to show proof of having a test in the last week and there are several cases including the most recent one, one of the two cases of went to Northland, to see if the frequency of the testing might be increased and that is under advice and we also were asked to look at whether or not there should be a requirement of people crossing the boundary, particularly those who are doing it regularly as essential workers, follow there might be a requirement for vaccination but as has been discussed by the Prime Minister, it does raise some issues and we are looking at that.
>> Are you worried about unprotected community transmission in Northland?
Is that why you are adding another five days?
>> One of the things we are concerned about is people who could have been infected and maybe showing symptoms may be reluctant to come forward and get tested.
I want to reiterate my message very strongly - any information that pertains to COVID-19 testing will only be used for the purposes of stabbing at COVID-19, it will not be used for any other purposes.
For those in Northland who may be reluctant to come forward because they don't want to be identified and don't want their activities to be identified, I want to provide absolute reassurance that the most important thing they can do at this point does come forward and be tested.
Yes, we are anxious about the rescue could be associated with people not coming forward to be tested.
>> It could be more difficult because not everyone can access the testing.
Is it more patchy with that type of testing?
>> There is a risk if you have COVID -positive cases in the means waste water, then potentially it becomes more difficult to detect unless they are coming forward to be tested and that is the point of the country where there are more people living with septic tanks, for example.
>> We are looking at the places where we know that those individuals went and they are places big enough that they would have reticulated waste water systems and so far it is encouraging and there have not been any positive results there but we are waiting for tests which were taken yesterday and we will have those back later today and I guess it is the sort of known unknowns and there are clearly some places that these individuals have been that we don't know about and so we are waiting to see and this was quite a discussion when we get the public health risk assessment.
We do agree and we have provided the advice of North and would do well to stay for a few more days at alert level three.
-- North land.
>> How much are the compromising the effort, given the status.
Also, we are hearing about it taking months for a council complaint to be dealt with.
Talk a little bit about what more needs to be done.
>> If people are being irresponsible then they are undermining what is a really important public health objective for New Zealand, which is to keep people safe from COVID-19.
In terms of the professional issues, I will hand that to the Director-General.
Has been the first comment I would make is these people are very small minority.
There is a huge majority of healthcare professionals, including those for whom vaccination, infectious diseases, epidemiology other specialty and they are all to a person almost supporting the vaccination programme.
The Medical Council and other regulatory bodies have had complaints and they have got to follow due process and that takes some time but there is a process in place and I would point people towards the vast majority of medical, scientific, and other professional opinion on this.
>> People listen to them and believe them and six months later is far too late, isn't it?
>> Any censorship, censoring process through a regulatory body does not stop them to be negating and these people are in a very small minority.
>> I don't require a negative test to go across the border but the woman who went to Northland, evidence of a test or medical certificates and they hadn't even shown a negative test.
>> We do have test requirements for crossing the border and we can increase the frequency of those.
The issue is for the people who are having to be tested regularly because they are crossing regularly, there are issues around timing.
For those who are doing a one- off border crossing, most of those people in that category need to produce a negative test before they can cross.
It is always difficult to get the balance right here because you don't want to make it impossible for someone who has to cross regularly to do their work, just because of the timing of when the test was taken and when they got the result back.
We want them to be tested regularly and they are being tested regularly and we will always look at whether there are further adjustments we can make and you can make that as tight as possible but also you have got to keep it in mind that it must be practical.
>> So they have to produce a medical certificate?
>> My understanding is the reason the first test was being tested was to satisfy requirements of the border crossing.
It was to make sure that they had been tested and that they could produce a test result at the border.
>> That is correct.
>> It was only for Auckland?
Is that correct?
>> We had both had a test in the seven days prior to travelling outside of Auckland but then the 7-day period expired while they were in Auckland and so we both had another test in Northland in order to be able to travel across the boundary and it was the testing of the first case that returned a week positive and on the basis of that there was a further test done.
>> So the positive woman, did she actually show police a negative result or just that they had had the test?
Do you not know?
>> The requirement that people are crossing the boundary as an essential worker, the requirement is to show evidence of a test of the last seven days.
>> A negative test?
>> They are just required to show a test and some people, many essential workers are crossing, some on a daily basis, some even more than once a day.
>> Why is the testing being used for all those boundary crossings?
>> Saliva testing is being used quite widely as part of the testing of essential workers crossing the boundary, including there have been collection and drop off points for those samples close to the boundary.
Those are processed through the normal process.
You can do PCR testing of a nasal sample or saliva sample but it has not been done in this case.
>> Can you give us a sense of how responsible these two uncooperative people who went into North land are?
>> It is difficult to know because without information on what they were doing in North land and how much contact they had with people, it is difficult to know the level of risk but ultimately by not providing information, yes, that does have an impact on our ability to make informed decisions about alert levels in Northland and there is a possibility there are more cases in Northland that have been detected.
Speak what is the hold-up?
It has been awhile since they have been questioned.
Are they stonewalling you?
What is the process?
>> My understanding is there is very little information about who they have been in contact with.
>> I don't but we can find that out.
>> Isn't this the opportunity to track the spread, for example, and you have set your doing some work around that but how much can you do in an area where there is a leakage?
>> In terms of vaccinating truck drivers and other essential workers, that has been the focus for the Auckland vaccination teams and with great cooperation and support from those delivery firms and other parties across the Auckland region over the last couple of weeks and there has been a specific focus with mobile teams going out to workplaces to make vaccination readily available and I would say that even in the absence of the mandatory requirement, anyone who was crossing the boundary out of Auckland, I would strongly encourage to get vaccinated if you have not been already.
>> On the truck driver, I can give you a few more details.
This was not a significant factor in the decision around Northland and the advice we have as the driver was in the region between 3M and midday and most of the sites that he was taking delivery were closed and there is one site where there was some low-level exposure and it is not a huge risk and so it was not one of the factors that we took into account.
>> The point is that these truck drivers, in some cases people had the privilege of crossing the boundary and surely vaccination is something that will lead to situations where vulnerable communities with low expectation rates like Northland.
>> Everybody wants people to receive and the more people that are vaccinated, the safer we will all be.
>> You are warned that there would be issues if they had to go back and that of the system was arbitrary it would not work and doesn't this prove that there was a risk to force them to go back?
>> Almost anything at this point is a risk and we have to weigh that up against the need, in the case of Auckland, to alleviate some of the immediate pressure that we have been seeing in Auckland.
We are looking at those risks very carefully and we did put extra requirements in place in order to keep the system and the children in the system as safe as possible and use only further strengthen that standing two days ago with the vaccine announcement.
>> So this proves that it is arbitrary that there are 10 children.
>> In this case there are six children and that is two lots of three children and whenever you draw the line, yes, there will potentially be risk and the only way that you can completely eliminate risk is to have everyone stay home forever.
>> Justin that, the school leadership say they have been left high and dry.
Can you clarify, will they lose their jobs or is there an option?
>> There is a process to work through and we are working through that with schools and it does not involve conversations about whether there are alternative options for them to teach in a different environment where they are supporting remote learning and, bear in mind, there is more demand for remote learning but we are talking about the limited range of options and the Ministry will be working with the skills and so will the Skills Association to make sure that it could guidance a good support and there is a process we can work through so it does not have to happen immediately.
>> You knew that this mandate was coming and there was an information vacuum and their fielding these calls from teachers and principals and there is no advice they could give and there wasn't anything ready to go to the sector to help them.
>> It is a process to be worked through and that will happen over several months between now and the end of the year and we don't yet understand the true extent of what the issue will be.
My expectation actually and from the feedback I have had as we expect to see high vaccination rates across both of the workforces that we talked about on Monday.
>> Have you identified staffing issues, smaller regions with large proportions of the teaching workforce in particular that aren't keen to get vaccinated?
>> I am not seeing evidence that there are large proportions of the workforce unwilling to be vaccinated.
Potentially where we could experience issues is if there is an isolated school where that teacher, it's a sole charge school, where the teacher doesn't wish to be vaccinated then that is something we have to work through to make sure we can staff at school.
That's one of the reasons we set 1 January as a deadline so we have time to work through that before kids come back after the summer holidays.
>> In the Waikato, are they places that haven't been reported to have COVID-19 cases so far?
The new cases in the Waikato, are they in new towns or places that haven't had COVID-19?
>> The two cases today we obviously don't know much about them yet.
We don't know how they might have come into contact with it.
The three cases we dealt with yesterday were known people, so they were already isolating.
Two of them were in isolation and one was isolating at home.
I can't remember the day before that, but we have seen it relatively contained until today when we saw the two extra cases come in.
>> These two cases today are in Hamilton, so all 37 cases in Waikato to date have either been in Raglan or Hamilton.
>> We had a week of phase 1 level 3 restrictions in Auckland, so far I think case numbers have averaged at 43.
Was that what you were thinking when you gave the advice to expand those freedoms, and there have been predictions of 100 per day, is that within your expectations, is that possible?
>> Case numbers are clearly going up.
As we have talked about in the last couple of days the letter R value is above one, at the moment it's about 1.
2 and everything that goes around Alert Level 3 including stage I and the requirements on people especially about not mixing inside remain really important for us keeping those case numbers as low as possible and that is what we are aiming to do.
>> Can you tell us why the COVID-19 technical advisory group was not consulted on the move away from elimination or the introduction of stages in Auckland?
>> I am not sure which advisory group you are referring to.
Are a number.
>> Michael Baker, and others have advised a pretty big chunk of our COVID-19 oh far.
>> First, the decisions around COVID-19, we continue, I think the word 'elimination' and the way it has been used and interpreted across a variety of places means different things to different people.
The government's use of the word 'elimination' has been relatively stable right the way through.
Because we have had periods of eradication, people have come to confuse the two things, I.e.
Elimination means getting back to 0 cases.
That has never been the definition of the original elimination strategy.
A lot of this comes back to terminology.
We are continuing to pursue COVID-19, we are continuing to try to drive cases out.
That's why we still have restrictions in place.
We have not given up on driving COVID-19 cases out of our community.
It is exactly what we continue to do.
>> With the stages in Auckland, easing restrictions, there is a clear move away from what we have been doing so far while cases are rising so why wasn't that group of independent experts consulted?
>> We took a wide range of advice including the fact that we have had a group focused especially on this question chaired by Professor Skegg looking at the sorts of things the government needs to consider when making these decisions.
I would remind people that the Alert Level system relies on a high degree, a very high degree of voluntary compliance.
Look at NSW, they saw a spike in cases despite not lowering their restrictions because people stopped following them to some extent.
It was one of the reasons.
Of course we keep all of those things in mind.
>> Minister, which independent experts were consulted?
I have been told that Professor Skegg and his group, last Monday's announcement blindsided them so who was consulted?
>> These are ongoing conversations and consultations held over a period of time.
>> (INAUDIBLE) and if so, how is that possible?
>> One of the people who returned a positive result, the public health unit in Auckland has not been able to contact them.
As they do in the circumstances, using a Section 70 notice they have asked for assistance from the police to locate that person so they can transport them to quarantine and undertake a view.
>> Have a specifically been given an exemption to home isolate?
>> No, it was someone who was tested and the result has come in and the public health unit has not been able to locate them yet.
>> People who have been vaccinated overseas with vaccines recognised in New Zealand are getting vaccinated again in order to qualify for the vaccination certificate, they say they have received no guidance from the Ministry of Health - what is your reaction?
>> We were clear when we made that announcement.
The vaccination certificates are not available yet.
Therefore they are available there will be an opportunity for those who have been vaccinated with an approved vaccine abroad to make sure they can provide that information to include it in the certificate.
If someone has been vaccinated abroad with Pfizer, with the approved vaccines, then they do not need to do that again.
As long as they have a record of the vaccination that they can supply when we have got that part of the system ready to receive that, then they won't have to do it again.
>> (INAUDIBLE) provided better advice on that?
>> The advice was clear last week.
That's one of the important aspects of functionality we are putting into the new system that people have been vaccinated overseas, that it can be recorded in the COVID immunisation register and are therefore reflected in the record people are able to produce.
>> There are differing accounts of how many beds there are in ICU with some people on the ground and with ministers, how many beds in the ICU do we have at the moment?
>> I am not going to put a number right here and now because what I get is a daily report on the proportion of beds in the ICU that are filled or not filled.
And every hospital around the country, and generally that sits between 60% and 70% nationally each day.
That is the number of beds available on those days.
The beds available each day vary because it depends on the staff available and the number they feel they will need.
What I can say is that ICU capacity, both the beds and the staffing of them, is one of the key streams of work undertaken in Auckland and nationwide to ensure that we are prepared not just to respond to COVID but to continue to deliver the full range of care people need.
>> Should the surge capacity be reported in those numbers?
>> It is not generally reported.
This is our daily occupancy hospital ICU bed and ventilation use across the country that we provide, DHB provide.
>> How much consideration has been given to allowing Kiwis abroad especially in countries like the UK and Australia who are double vaccinated to come home through MiQ for a short period of time so you can put more of them through the system?
>> We are actively considering MiQ settings in light of the fact we are unlikely to get back to 0 cases in the New Zealand community.
There are a few further things for us to work through on that including what we do with travellers who want to come back via Auckland but then moved to other parts of the country.
We have got work to do there, but I think you can expect to see us talking more about that fairly soon.
There is a lot of work happening in that space.
We are closely looking at the MiQ settings in light of what we're dealing with domestically in New Zealand.
The situation has changed here.
>> Are you looking at five days, seven days?
>> I do want to get ahead of that, we haven't decided that I do not want to get ahead of that but we are working through options.
>> Do you have an arrangement like the UK and Australia in terms of a vaccine passport (INAUDIBLE)?
>> We have indicated the requirement for all of those coming into the country who are not New Zealand citizens, there is a requirement they will need to be vaccinated, fully vaccinated before they can come in after 1 November.
That will largely be a manual system.
And it will be at two levels, one that we are respecting airlines to do some checking -- we are expecting airlines to do some checking of those records during the check-in process for the flight.
Secondly, they will be more thoroughly checked here in New Zealand.
There will be penalties for those who deliberately try to rip off the system.
>> Some have said a circuit breaking level 4 lockdown may be needed, what is your thinking on that and can you rule it out?
>> That's not something the government is considering.
>> Why not?
>> Anyone else?
The reality is, as I have already indicated, the Alert Level system that we have relies on a very high degree of voluntary compliance for New Zealanders.
What we have seen in those countries that have tried to sustain those kinds of restrictions for a prolonged period of time, they have found the effectiveness of those restrictions actually diminishes.
So if you want to rewind, and say that if we stayed at Alert Level for the entire time, would we still see the escalation in cases?
There is a very good chance we would still be in this position because the level of compliance, the level of support for Alert Level 4 can still remain high but it only requires the small minority who don't follow the rules to increase by a bit and the effectiveness of those alert level's diminishes thing differently.
>> Can you put a figure on how many 10 and under, and separately how many 19 and under, have been hospitalised in this outbreak?
>> I will see if I have got the information here.
>> Can I ask about home quarantine, we were told by the Chief Medical Officer the home quarantine system based on modelling meant there would be about 5000 cases per week in Auckland and Northland, so what's happening with home quarantine as opposed to MiQ and how quickly can we see that in place?
>> As we see the case numbers increasing, which we are expecting, the sustainability of putting everybody who is a positive case into MiQ gets seriously drawn into question.
So we have been working for some time now on a home isolation model for positive cases.
We have done that before in our first level 4, level 3 lockdown last year.
We did isolate positive cases in their own homes by and large so we have done it before and we will see it again.
And I think that will be fairly soon.
>> What about security?
We're going back to a situation when we first closed the borders and a lot of people were self-isolating and there was not a lot of monitoring.
What do you have now at your disposal at you can put security in place?
It's going to be a big concern especially if people are positive, that they are doing what they need to do.
What can you do to make sure they are?
>> One thing we will do is we will still have MiQ for domestic cases where there is a high degree of risk associated.
Either they can't isolate or we are not confident that they will, we will still have the ability to use MiQ for those people to minimise the risk to the rest of the community.
>> Following up to Jane's the release of MiQ rooms this week, the home isolation thing may help with it, but how much of a squeeze or how much pressure do you think will go on the MiQ allocation as a result of cases growing and what can you do about that?
>> Like I said, fairly soon, we will see us having to move to more of a home isolation model for those positive cases rather than converting more and more of our MiQ facilities to cope with domestic cases.
In the last peak that we saw, a couple of weeks back, I think we went to the peak of what we could do in terms of MiQ.
And I don't envisage we will go above and beyond that.
So we will now be looking at other ways of isolating people.
And will be a risk-based framework we use.
>> In term of the modelling just mentioned, about 5000 cases per day, - per week, in Auckland and Northland - is that modelling that you see, figures of thousands per week and how likely is that?
>> I think everyone can do the maths.
If we look at a value of between 1.
2 and 1.
3, that sees the number of cases, the number of new cases, doubling on a fairly regular basis.
And that leads you to an exponential growth curve.
We can all do our own maths and figure out those models.
There is no question, we're going into a period where we are likely to see quite significant growth in case numbers.
There are some things New Zealanders can do to minimise that.
Following the Alert Level restrictions in Auckland now, and following the spirit of the Alert Level restrictions that we have in Auckland now.
It is still Alert Level 3, remember.
Following those rules is how we can help suppress growth in case numbers and the other thing is vaccination.
COVID-19, this particular outbreak we are dealing with has found unvaccinated people and that's where it has been spreading fastest with devastating effect.
>> You ruled out level 4, if cases rise into the hundreds of thousands per week and you are looking at the health system being overwhelmed, in the past we would go to level 4 so if we can't do that, what do we do?
>> The government has a variety of plans and the Prime Minister has already committed to come back and speak to you about that pathway and what it looks like.
We're still at Alert Level 3 in Auckland.
>> In terms of the circuit breaker, is this response to COVID-19 still led by science?
It seems to be increasingly at odds with the body of evidence.
>> It is a science led response but it is also in the context of an increasingly vaccinated population, so we have to recognise that other countries who have pursued similar strategies to us around actively running down cases, which we continue to do, have changed their approach in the light of higher proportions of their population being vaccinated.
And we recognise no country sadly has been able to eliminate Delta and get back to 0, no country has done that.
Once Delta is out there it is much harder to contain, to eliminate, to eradicate, than previous strains have been.
A couple of comments on the recent questions and first of all the modelling, 2022, with fully open borders, high vaccination rates but not with a range of other public health restrictions, and so are differs very much from the modelling you might have seen previously from the team and also the modelling that we are using for our advice in this outbreak.
Also, as for a science-led response, very much so, because decisions are being based on the public health and risk assessment and the advice we are provided with and it's not just my personal advice but we are taking in the views of a range of people, including colleagues who are dealing with this outbreak in Auckland every day and they are public health doctors, epidemiologists and so on.
We canvassed the idea that deliberately of increasing alert levels again and it was not supported by the team, or the team on the ground in Auckland, based on the work and where we are on the south island.
>> There was a question on international travel.
Does that first move still exist or is that part of a wider view of how you will treat international travel?
>> Without getting into the specifics of the arrangement which I do not know inside out and back to front, we do have a close relationship with Australia and we are looking at what is happening there and we have learned a lot from each other with the COVID-19 responses and we continue to talk to them very closely and it is one of the areas where there is the most pressure for movement with people wanting to move between New Zealand and Australia.
Of course, whenever we talk about any changes at the international border, Australia is one of those countries that is absolutely front of mind when we are having the conversations.
>> Watching the Australian government reopened the world with interest - is that likely to happen next month?
>> We do not know what the state response to the federal governments' strategy will be and that can create internal tension within Australia and it is not always as clear-cut as it might appear once the states get involved and put their own take on potential changes there.
>> In Auckland, the owner of a shop said they did not know of the positive case until a Facebook post.
What is the process for notifying people what has gone wrong?
>> I will ask the Director- General to comment on that.
>> This is the truck driver?
I thought you said Thai, I was thinking of takeaway.
Yes, there was a company that the person works for which is Auckland-based and they were notified by the Public Health Unit and very quickly got in touch with the places that the truck driver had delivered to in Auckland, actually in Whangarei, and the post was made quickly after that and that was before we had been informed and the Public Health Unit up there so it was an unusual series of events and once the person was informed we were able to establish a possible risk event.
>> It has now been five days since we knew about the Northland case and we still have information about why they were there and what they were doing and basically anything.
Don't the people of Auckland deserve an explanation as to what is actually going on?
>> I think they absolutely deserve an explanation and I encourage the two people concerned to have the information to share that so we can in turn ensure that.
>> Given that the woman were only required to show they had had a test and that the test result, is it possible they were infectious as they passed through the border?
>> I will perhaps get the Director-General to comment on that.
I can speak it is possible one of them was but very unlikely given the date the test was done and the result of that test.
Again, the requirement is people travelling across the border on an essential work permit sure that they have had a test in the last seven days and if the test comes back positive, as we saw in this instance and in other instances, that is immediately followed up.
>> And the people who cannot be located, are they known to police?
>> It was very much a last- minute update and I don't have that information.
>> I will come back to Derek.
>> (INAUDIBLE QUESTION) And we have 75 cases and still centred on the it suburbs of concern and we have gone beyond that now and if it is beyond the reach of that, (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).
>> It would be fair to say that the advice we are getting is COVID-19 is spreading in Auckland and the number of locations we are seeing cases popping up is growing and the diversity of the parts of the community that are being infected with COVID-19 is also increasing and vaccination is absolutely important at this point.
We are seeing good high vaccination rates in Auckland but I cannot stress enough that we want to push harder and faster with vaccination in Auckland.
It will make a difference and it will be a very important part of the pathway to less restriction for Auckland.
There is no question about that.
In terms of the overall nature and shape, I would like to speak to the Director-General.
>> We are seeing a shift and high testing continues to be fundamental for us to control the outbreak and keep the number of cases as low as possible, as does people's willingness and compliance within the level three restrictions and that is very important alongside the increasing vaccination rate.
>> (INAUDIBLE QUESTION).
When does that shift happened?
>> Let me be clear, the public health team is following up every single case and we are ensuring we are following them up in a timely way around the country and all contacts are being followed up and so there is a very active and aggressive public health effort to follow up cases and isolate and test contacts.
>> A bit earlier you said you were reevaluating the use of QR codes for international travellers.
Are you indicating that travellers from the UK or Australia of their vaccinated to get to Australia?
>> I'm not making any announcements on that.
I'm saying, of course we are looking at the overall settings in light of the changed situation we have domestically in New Zealand but I will not get ahead of those conversations or any decisions on that and I am not going to foreshadow what is on or off the table at this point but in saying that the work is being done.
Speak during the press -- >> During the press conference, there have been reports that the My Covid Record website is being overloaded.
Are you confident it can cope with the demand?
>> The feedback we have had is that the My Covid Record does draw on the health service in terms of activating people's numbers and that system is under strain at the moment because of the volume of activity associated with it but the overall My Covid Record system itself is very robust but is drawing on data sources from other places and that does create some strain there.
One of the reasons we have opened up My Covid Record before the vaccine certificates is in order to spread the demand and this should be done as the first part of the process, to make it more sustainable.
We will wrap up now.
Lucky last question over there.
>> With Northland, are people reluctant to come forward?
>> I have not seen any evidence of people being reluctant to come forward and the feedback in Waikato is people are doing a good job and the mystery cases are underpinning the decision to expand at this point.
>> The reluctance to come forward that you mention, do you think it is because there is criminal activity involved?
>> I would not like to speculate on that.
>> Quietly said there is reluctance then?
>> It is possible the activities that people are engaged with means they are wary about coming forward are concerned about potentially exposing some other aspects of their life that they do not want to and so I want to reiterate that we will not use any information obtained through this process for those purposes and that includes that we will not be sharing them publicly unless there is a very good reason to do so.
>> Minister, why don't you say that they are a sex worker?
>> That is not the information that I have.
There is a lot of speculation but it is not the information that I have.
Thanks very much, everybody.
>> Not at the moment but we will have an update tomorrow and anyone in Auckland or Waikato, with symptoms, please get tested straight away.
We will get that back for you.