COVID-19 update 28 October 2021

News article

28 October 2021

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will update the media today at 1pm.

>> (SPEAKS TE REO MAORI) Good  afternoon, everybody.

 As has now been acknowledged this  morning, last night, we were  notified of two new cases of  COVID-19 in the Christchurch  area.

After considering the  public health risk assessment  morning, the government has  agreed to hold Christchurch at  its current level of alert  level 2.

Close contacts have  been identified and are self- isolating with their test  results pend 8ing. The pair  concerned are being moved into  MIQ today. The Director-General  will have more details shortly. 

Any locations of interest will  be put up on the website as and  if they are identified but in  the meantime, I do want to send  a message to the people of  Christchurch. Anyone with any  COVID-19-like symptoms is  encouraged to get a test  straightaway.

The case lives in  the Bishopdale area, where  individuals and the vaccination  rates there north and south are  at 90% or above first doses and  70% for second doses. So the  wider Canterbury region, the  vaccination numbers are 89% for  first doses and 69% having had  second doses.

 These do - these  cases do remind us that no-one  in New Zealand can afford to be  complacent about COVID-19, and  the Delta variant in particular.  The best protection for  ourselves and our wider  communities is vaccination.

 The  alert level 2 settings we have  across the country outside of  those alert Level 3 areas at  the moment continue to keep us  safe from COVID-19 by putting  limits on gatherings and  ensuring that only those who  need to are attending big work  sites, mask wearing, scanning  and so on remains incredibly  important to protect each other  and to aid contact-tracing  efforts.

My thanks to the  people of Christchurch and the  wider South Island who are  continuing to follow the rules  that will help to us stop any  transmission of the virus  working alongside vaccination.

 I will now hand over to the  Director-General for a more  detailed update on today's  cases then I have a few things  to say about MIQ. 

>> Thank you,  Minister.

 Today there are 89  new COVID cases in the  community to report.

Of these  83 are in Auckland, four in  Waikato and as the minister  emphasised two are in ofc.

I  will come back to those two  with more detail shortly there  is one further case today in an  MICQ worker which is being  investigated to determine  whether it is a community or a  border related cases.

 The total  cases then in the outbreak  centred in Auckland is 2,921 to  date.

 There are also seven new  cases to report and recent  returnees in managed isolation  facilities.

Today there are 37  people in hospital with COVID- 19, all in the Auckland region  and five of those are in  intensive care or a high  dependency unit.

Turning now to  the two cases in Christchurch.  As has been mentioned, they are  are both from the same  household. One as you will know  recently travelled to Auckland  to provide child care for the  family there. That person have  had a negative test before  travelling to Auckland then a  second negative test before  returning to Christchurch on  Friday the 15th of October.  They were not considered to be  infectious during their travel  back to Christchurch.

Both  these cases became unwell last  week, were test on Tuesday this  week and both positive results  were returned last evening.

The  second case works as a truck  driver and the company that  this person works for is  assisting with tracking his  movements and whereabouts over  the 3.5 days that he was  working while either infectious,  potentially infectious or  symptomatic. We do know the  person at this stage was  driving around the Christchurch  area, including some trips to  just out of north of  Christchurch.

 In terms of close  contacts, there are three  households with a total of nine  close contacts who have been  identified. All are isolating  and being tested presently.

The  cases are now in a managed  quarantine facility, I can  confirm, in Christchurch and  the local Public Health Unit  continues to interview them to  identify any other potential  close contacts or exposure  events and whether any of those  exposure events are locations  of interest.

So I just urge  people in Christchurch and  indeed around the Christchurch  area to keep an eye on the  ministry of health web site.

We  will publicise any locations of  interest. I'm also of course  asking the people of Canterbury,  particularly those who live in  in Christchurch, if you have  any symptoms at all t could be  COVID-19, no matter how mild  and no matter whether you are  vaccinated or not, please do  get tested. There are two large  community-based testing centres  in Christchurch. All of busy  this morning, which is good.  They have scaled up capacity to  meet the expected increased  demand and there is also  testing available in a range of  other places across  Christchurch, the healthpoint  website has locations on it. 

There was a waste water sample  taken in Christchurch on  Tuesday, which was negative for  COVID-19. This catchment covers  a population of around 300,000  people. It rules out that  there's a large number of - a  reasonable number of cases  there but of course it may not  detect one or two additional  cases. So there will be  increased testing over coming  days there as well as testing  by in several districts and  alsoed aing in Ashburton.

 People in Canterbury should of  course take the opportunity  today to be vaccinated if they  haven't already. There is  plenty of capacity in a number  of clinics, more than a hundred  places you can be vaccinated  across Christchurch. There are  an extra 2,600 slots available  today for walk-ins, on top of  around 6,000 people already  booked in to be vaccinated  today.

Testing numbers remain  really good across the country.  There were 25,893 tests  processed yesterday. Just on to  Auckland then.

 Last week, we  had identified suburbs of  Redvale, rap Rosedale,  Bayswater and New-Lynn has  having high positivity rates.  That has dropped now in New- Lynn. They would add Wiri,  Druery, Henderson and Manu  Daewa to the list of symptoms  where you have any symptoms at  all, please get tested.

An  update on Waikato. There are  four new cases today. All are  known contacts of existing  cases, and have been contacted  by public health officials  already. So in the total number  of cases in the Waikato  outbreak, there are just three  now that haven't been  epidemiologically linked but  they have been genomically  linked to the outbreak.

 There  was a positive sample from  waste water taken on Tuesday.  However, another sample taken  on the same day was negative.

 Two further contacts in Tukaroa  were tested yesterday. They  have all returned negative  tests this re remain in ice  lakes hand will be tested again  no further locations of  interest or any contacts have  been identified in Blenheim. 

Two final points. On  vaccination, medsafe has now  renewed the provisional  approval of the Pfizer COVID-19  vaccine, which was due to  expire on 3 November and that  has been gazetted. It has  extended that provisional  approval for a further two  years.

This means that the  company, Pfizer, must continue  to meet certain conditions  including to supply ongoing  data from its clinical trials  around the world and its safety  monitoring, as well as updates  on any manufacturing. With that  current provisional approval,  medsafe can decide to grant  full approval at any time in  the next two years, if and when  Pfizer submits an application  for this to happen. That would  include the need to require  information on all the age  ranges what may be being  vaccinated at that point. 

Finally for border workers who  have returned to New Zealand  from abroad and who may have  been vaccinated overseas,  pleased to report that three of  the vaccines administered in  jurisdictions overseas, that is,  the Moderna, AstraZeneca and  the Arnsen vaccines, are now  recognised in our vaccination  orders that requires border  workers to be fully vaccinated  when they are undertaking those  border-related roles in New  Zealand. This follows a change  to the order which took effect  at 11.59 on Sunday the 17th and  recognises those three vaccines  in addition to the Pfizer  vaccine, which is obviously the  only one we currently  administer in New Zealand.

Back  to you, Minister. 

>> Thank you,  Dr Bloomfield.

Over the last 18  month, our managed isolation  and quarantine facilities have  been our first line of defence  against COVID-19. Stopping  COVID-19 at the border has been  one of our highest priorities.  And thanks to the hard work of  thousands of dedicated Kiwis,  we've been able to enjoy levels  of freedoms over this past year  and a half that have been the  envy of many other nations.  Over 183,000 New Zealanders and  others have entered the country  through managed isolation and  quarantine MIQ. Over 1,350 of  those people have carried  COVID-19 with them.

 Yet we've  only had a handful of  incursions into the community  during that time. So as a  country, we owe a massive vote  of thanks to our frontline MIQ  and border workers. They've  done an amazing job going to  work each day in a high riff  risk environment, keeping us  all safe.

 But now as we enter  the next phase of our COVID-19  response, it is time to  reconsider how we're managing  our international border. As  vaccination rates have  increased internationally, the  number of COVID cases being  picked up through our MIQ  facilities has continued to  decline.

We now only get two to  three cases per thousand  arrivals, and only around one  in two now sand is detects  after seven days of isolation. 

In nigz, full vaccination will  be required for all non-New  Zealand citizens travelling to  New Zealand from the 1st of  November. With increasing cases  in the community, the overall  risk profile has changed. MIQ  is playing an increasingly  important role in providing  quarantine and isolation for  higher risk community case and  their contacts. Unlike most  recent arrivals from overseas,  theme actually have COVID-19 or  they've been recently iks posed  to it the government has been  considering how to rebalance  our MIQ system to ensure that  Kiwis can continue to come home  whilst we also provide more  spaces for those higher-risk  community case and their  contacts.

We're also very aware  of the pressure that's been  building at the border as the  world begins to reconnect and  increasing numbers of New  Zealanders here and abroad want  to be able to reconnect with  loved ones.

So now it's the  time to start stepping out a  series of changes to our border  and to our MIQ arrangements. 

Step one. MIQ stays will be  reduced from 14 days to 7 days.  Travellers being tested at day  zero, day 3 and day of and  undertaking a rapid antigen  test before they leave MIQ.  They'll then isolate at home  for short periods of around  three days. They'll get a PCR  test on day 9 since they  returned home, and they will  wait at home until that result  comes back. This is consistent  with the way we are now  treating contacts in the  community.

This evolution will  free up around 1,500 rooms a  month in MIQ. Many of those  will be used for community  cases but some will be re- released using the MIQ voucher  system. I expect next week that  will be the next release will  have over 2,000 rooms.

 These  arrangements will apply to all  travellers arriving in New  Zealand from the 14th of  November. The second step  allows us to reopen the border  to more low-risk travellers,  allowing them to by-pass MIQ  altogether and will start with  travellers from low-risk  Pacific Island countries such  as Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and  Tokalau.

We've already welcomed  RSE workers from those  countries without issue.

This  one-way quarantine-free travel  will commence from the week  beginning the 8th of November.  Travellers will need to be  fully vaccinated, unless they  are New Zealand citizens. RSE  workers who are currently able  to enter New Zealand with at  least one dose of the vaccine  will need to be fully  vaccinated from the 1st of  January.

The third step, as we  can move towards having more  people isolating at home. This  option will be made available  to increasing numbers of fully  vaccinated travellers in the  first quarter of 2022.

However,  our priority at this stage is  to safely transition to the new  traffic-light system first and  bed that beforeed a dig the  additional risk of  international arrivals  immediately entering the  community. When the COVID-19  protection framework is bedded  in, 90% of eligible New  Zealanders will be fully  vaccinated so we'll have a  higher level of confidence than  we do right now in allowing  international arrivals to go  straight into the community.  The length of time that people  will be required to isolate at  home will depend on a number of  factors including what more  we've learned about dealing  with delta by that point.

 The  COVID-19 situation continues to  evolve rapidly, both here and  abroad, and we do need to move  quickly to make sure that we  are minimising the risk we face  in the best way possible and  that we're devoting our  resources to the place where is  they can make the biggest  difference. We will, as we  always have, step through  changes carefully, though.

 In  the meantime, my message to all  New Zealanders, whether they're  here or abroad, is a very, very  simple one. Get vaccinated.  Then we can all get back to  doing the things that we love,  and to seeing the people that  we love. 

>> What do you say to  the people of the South Island  who have you failed to pro  direct from COVID? 

>> We've  always been very clear, since  the outbreak took hold in  Auckland, that there is no way  of absolutely guaranteeing that  we wouldn't see other cases  popping up in other parts of  the country. The people  concerned - and the person  concerned in regard to their  travel in and out of Auckland  had a legitimate reason for the  travel and they got a test  before they returned back to  Christchurch.  

>> (Inaudible)   

>> No, they had not been  vaccinated. 

>> (Inaudible)  mandated vaccination passports  for hospitality and retail, but  you have not mandated  vaccination passports for  leaving the centre of an  outbreak? 

>> One of the things  that we will be looking at, and  we have been looking at, I  should say, is whether there  should be requirements for  interregional travel for  vaccination, particularly on  flights. So we're working  through the logistics of that.  One of the things that you do  need to allow for is that there  will be some essential travel  required, and you wouldn't  necessarily want to cut people  off from that essential travel  if they haven't been vaccinated,  but we're working our way  through that at the moment.   

>> Twice in one week, Barry. I  feel privileged! 

>> Ha ha ha!  Home isolation, why wait until  next year? Why not do it now?   

>> At the moment, we don't have  cases all over the country in  the way that we do in Auckland,  and so the risk settings are  different. We don't want to  accelerate the spread of COVID- 19 out of Auckland by  prematurely making changes to  the international border. So  what you've seen and my remarks  just now and in the statement  that I've put out, is that we  are linking that to moving to  the new traffic-light system.  Once we get the high rates of  vaccination, at that point, you  will start to see quite a bit  more change at the border. It  is linked to our ability to  tolerate extra numbers of cases  popping up in New Zealand hand  that's where vaccination will  play a role. 

>> So when are  people who are double jabbed  and negative tested going to be  allowed to come into the  country? 

>> I think by...   

>> Sorry, without isolation?   

>> Well, they may still need to  isolate but it would be  isolation at home potential ly   

>> When? 

>> By the end of the  first quarter 

>> (Inaudible)   

>> There may be some more spaces  in MIQ between now and  Christmas. Part of that  actually companies down to New  Zealand err whys. The faster  New Zealanders get fully  vaccinated so that we can move  to the traffic-light system,  the faster we will be able to  reopen the border 

>> Why are you  not requiring isolation for  those leaving Auckland but  you're requiring 10 days of  isolation for those coming from  place where is there's no  COVID? 

>> Largely - as I've  indicated before, that would  potentially shut down supply  lines throughout the country  and that is a challenge that  would potentially leave  children without someone to  care for them. So there are a  variety of issues that we have  to grapple with and a domestic  boundary that we don't have to  grapple with quite as much in  the border or that we have  arrangements in place to  mitigate the risk at the  international border.   

>> Children who haven't seen  their parents because of the  international border? 

>> But  they have someone caring for  them. 

>> (Inaudible) how much  that is hurting people? 

>> I  think New Zealander also also  understand that we don't want  to accelerate the spread of  COVID-19 around the country  while we are still getting our  vaccination rates up and so,  yes, I acknowledge that there's  a lot of pressure there. My  message to the people who are  keen to get back into New  Zealand is there isn't very  long to wait now, and  encouraging their fellow New  Zealanders would get nulle  vaccinated will ep help us get  to that point faster 

>> You've  shown this week that you're  more than prepared to mandate,  so why are you not prepared to  mandate for those who are using  the regional border, and  yesterday or the day before, Dr  Bloomfield, you stayed that  truck drivers were confirmed  low risk. This is now the  second example where someone  has got infected, been tripping  around a region, yes it may not  be a whole bunch of exposure  events but do you accept that  people like truck drivers and  bus drivers are a risk and that  these industries should be made  to vaccinate? 

>> I can respond  to the second part of that  question. If you look at our  experience in the hawk land  outbreak, with people who have  been delivering, couriers or  truck drivers, both within and  beyond Auckland, we've had some  who have gone beyond Auckland,  we have not seen cases arise  from those people. I mean, they  are going - their work happens  to take them around and about,  just as it does with this  person in Christchurch but  they're not the only people who  are out and about in an alert  level 2 area so we have not  seen cases arise from people  who are transporting things  around, either within Auckland  or beyond. And secondly, just  to reiterate the point from a  couple of days ago, we have had,  ever since Auckland went down  to alert Level 3, we have the  the testing regime in place and  we know there is a high level  of compliance with that and  that is a very important  safeguard to help prevent the  spread outside of Auckland and  it's served us very well to  date. 

>> It's got nothing to do  with preparedness at all, and  we've been lucky and that it  may end up that these drivers  don't affect anyone else, but  we should play a game of luck?   

>> It's not luck. It's a fact  that in the outbreak in  Auckland and we've looked very  carefully at where transmission  has happened and it's almost  entirely been within close  contact settings, largely in  the home but also in close  contact within workplaces. So  actually people in workplaces  that are indoor are much more  at risk than people who may  have contact with drivers or  others who are going about  their work 

>> On the original  question are in terms of that  regional border, you have said  for a number of weeks now that  you are looking at how you can  implement that. Is this going  to prompt you to seriously  consider how you are going to  make changes so that people  using that regional border  are... 

>> Look I don't have an  announcement to make today.  Obviously any changes there  would be subject to a  discussion big the Cabinet   

>> Are you seriously considering  it, though, or are you just not  keep kicking the can down the  road which you have been for  weeks now? 

>> I'm indicating  that I don't have an  announcement to make. It is  under active consideration 

>> In  terms of the wider border  opening in the first quarter of  next year, are you thinking  that would just be for Kiwis  wanting to come home or for  tourism? 

>> Those decisions  haven't opinion made yet. Our  first priority is those who  have a right to come into New  Zealand right now and are  struggling to do so. We have  not worked through the wider  issue at this point but we will.   

>> Kiwis first? 

>> Yeah. Look,  first priority is obviously not  just Kiwis but those who have a  right to come into New Zealand  at the moment, who have a visa  and are waiting for space to  open up for them, those are  obviously our first priorities.  But then we have other groups  as well, so if we think about  international students, for  example, where we've got  education providers who want to  be able to isolate them within  - they can provide an isolation  option for them, we have an  ability to consider that  potentially too. Tourists are  more of a challenge, in the  sense that they don't  necessarily have somewhere to  ice late on arrival, but we'll  work our way through all of  that. I think what will you see  in the first part of next year  is that the overall approach of  the for der will be quite  different to the way that we've  been managing it over the last  18 months. Derek. 

>> You talked  about how operationally  difficult it is to require  vaccination for people leaving  the boundary. I think people  understand that thousands of  people going over the border,  you can't check every vehicle.  Are you basically saying that  practically you've done all you  can to make the boundary as  tight as you can or is there  something more that you can do?   

>> There's always a practical  trade-off, would be the way I  would summarise it. So a  vaccination requirement just  adds an extra layer of  complexity to that, which has  the potential to slow down  supply lines and so on. Some of  those challenges are not  necessarily insurmount 8 ofable  but we need to work our way  through those carefully and  that would be subject to any  decision by Cabinet. Similarly  when we talk about domestic air  travel, there are some factors  question need to work through.  People travel for medical  reasons, for example, using  planes and may noting  vaccinated at the time they are  travelling so we need to think  with (b) how we would handle  those. We have to work our way  through all those  considerations care any which  we will do. 

>> Would it be that  operationally difficult to  require a vaccination before  someone flies out of Auckland  and providing exemptions for -  medical reasons? 

>> Don't have  an announcement to make today  but I can tell you that we are  considering those arrangements   

>> That particular one doesn't  seem to be operationally  difficult 

>> That's probably one  of the easier ones. There are  all sorts of consistency issues  you have to work through. 

>> The  rapid antigen testing, you  haven't said there is a need  for that or that it would  complement measures already at  the boundary. You've said rapid  antigen test something in the  hands of employers rather than  the government. 

>> The point I  was making was that if you were  going to deploy rapid antigen  testing and that is very much  on the table, in fact, that's  why we are working with MB with  a number of large employers in  the Auckland region to pilot  and trial the use of rapid  antigen testing but if we are  to use it as part of the  boundary protection  arrangements, it would be  having the employers do the  rapid antigen testing rather  than having the testing being  done at the boundary.   

>> (Inaudible) 

>> Currently,  there is a mandate and  employers have worked with us  on those for people the  crossing the boundary to be  testing regularly, using  various methods of testing.   

>> What do the MIQ changes mean  if anything for the status of  high risk countries, India,  park stand, bratz England and  so on. There wasn't a great  evidence base to justify those  restriction. The ministry  itself in July concluded none  of those countries were very  high risk. But nothing has  changed 

>> We're coming up to  another review point for those  countries now. At the moment  the travel from those places is  restricted to New Zealand  citizens but we have kept that  under review so we have been  regularly reviewing it the last  review was towards the  beginning of the August  outbreak, when we were right at  the peak of dealing with that.  But we're coming up for another  one. We're took them every six  weeks. There could be changes  there as a result of the  situation we're now in. 

>> What  actually needs to be reviewed?  The ministry has concluded that  these countries are no longer  very high risk so what needs to  be considered? Isn't it already  the case that it's not  justifiable... 

>> Obviously  there's a decision-making  process that you go through  every time there's a review.  The last time we reviewed them  we deferred making a decision.  The next decision-making  process is coming up very soon.  Once that process has been gone  through, then we'll share the  results of that decision. 

>> The  1,500 rooms that are being  freed up, how many are likely  to go to desperate Kiwis  overseas, wanting to come home?   

>> There's obviously a  logistical exercise that MIQ  will now need to go through  around rejuggling those  existing bookings to see how  exactly how much space gets  freed up. There is still some  uncertainty around exactly what  the modelling is telling us,  around how many spaces we will  need for those community cases  at this point so we haven't got  certainty around that. But I  can provide a reassurance that  rooms that we don't need we  will be endeavouring to re- release those. I can't put  specific numbers on at this  point. 

>> More lobbys? 

>> More  lobbies, absolutely. 

>> Dr  Bloomfield, the case of a man  in Auckland who wanted his  sister from Blenheim to go to  his 8-year-old son's funeral  yesterday, she had applied on a  number of occasions to go and  she finally got approval  yesterday, an hour after the  plane had left. Now, why wasn't  approval given before that?   

>> The reason the approval  wasn't given before that was  because the staff there were  applying the policy,  consistently, and they've  applied the policy consistently  to over 22,000 applications for  compassionate and other  exemptions. 

>> Surely, though,  here is a woman a thank is  given, after publicity, is  given permission to go to  Auckland, and yet, you only saw  the light when publicity was  given to it. 

>> Actually, the  team proposed to me, partly in  response to this particular  case and this instance, was a  change to the operational  policy which allows people if  they are clearly a close  relative and if they are  attending a funeral and they  are named as one of 109 people  attending that, then - the 10  people attending that,  compassionate exemption should  be granted. They raised this  with me. I said that sounded  very good. They notified this  person as soon as possible that  exemption had been granted   

>> She applied on several  occasions though. It was only  approved after publicity. What  went wrong? 

>> Nothing went  wrong. The team applied the  very clear criteria. They are  put of a broader suite of  measures designed to protect  people outside of Auckland and  have been successful to date as  part of that suite of measures.   

>> The trick seems to be getting  publicity and then a decision  might be made. 

>> Ahh, no. 

>> I  do just want to underscore the  fact that this is a difficult  time, having an internal  boundary within New Zealand,  having restrictions at the  international border, separates  people, often arbitrarily and  often in ways that are very  challenging for those people,  and nobody in the government,  nobody dealing with these  issues is lacking in compassion  here, or are not aware of the  fact that this puts a lot of  pressure on people and often  puts them in really difficult  situations. But you will note  from the questions that we're  dealing with here today,  there's roughly an equal number  of people who think we're being  heartless and not allowing more  travel across the border, and a  roughly equal number of people  who are saying that we failed  by allowing COVID-19 out of  Auckland, and all of this  involves really difficult  trade-offs and balances and I  do absolutely acknowledge that  that puts some people in a  really tight spot. I will come  to luck then to Cleo. 

>> A quick  one on MIQ then a few questions  about Christchurch. With this  MIQ thing, in the end, haven't  gone for a separate regime in  Auckland to rest of the country.  Given that the situations are  materially different, I am just  wondering how you land on that   

>> Ultimately, the international  border operates as one border.  This is a temporary arrangement.  We're stepping through a series  of changes. We don't know how  long this arrangement will be  in place for but it won't be  for very long. So effectively  trying to set up two  international border, one for  those coming into Auckland and  one for those coming into the  rest of the country, would be a  pretty challenging exercise to  do, and by the time you did it,  it might not - you might not  even need it. In this case  we're trying to step down in a  way that's consistent that  minimises the risk to the whole  country, that minimises the  risk of COVID-19 presenting  anywhere in New Zealand from  the international border,  whilst we prepare for the fact  we'll see more movement across  the border 

>> Dr Bloomfield,  whereabouts in Christchurch do  the positive cases live? 

>> I  think the minister mentioned  earlier on n Bishopdale and I  think the minister spoke to the  vaccination rate there is being  pretty good. 

>> What else can  you tell us - firstly, when did  they first get symptoms? 

>> The  person who travelled to  Auckland returned to  Christchurch on the 15th,  became symptomatic on the 18th,  and then the other case who's  her partner became symptomatic  two days after that. They had -  the households they visited,  which are actually two house  holds but there were people  there who were from a couple of  other households, those were on  the 19th and 20th, they are the  only close contacts that have  been identified, because after  that they were both feeling  quite unwell and laid low at  home. That's why one. The key  inputs into our advice at this  stage about the need not to go  up an alert level is that the  number of close contacts is  relatively small. They know who  they are and they are being  tested and isolated at the  moment 

>> And they came down  (inaudible) child care 

>> One of  the two travelled to Auckland  to assist with child care, was  in Auckland for five days, and  that person is a female in her  50s, and she is Maori, and the  other person, her partner is a  male in his 40s who's New  Zealand European. 

>> Just  finally, what are key things  that you're looking at? I mean,  what sort of caseload or  characteristic of cases would  there have to be for feengts  lockdown of some description to  be back on the table? 

>> Key  things we're looking at are  whether any or many of the  chose contacts become positive,  the ones who are being tested  today and we're hoping to have  those results later today,  because as I said, our  experience from the hawk land  outbreak is it's the household  and close contacts who are the  ones who are most likely to be  infected. The waste water  testing will also be material  here. But at this stage, we've  got two cases, we know exactly  where the origin is from, there  are no large exposure events  which is material, so we will  be watching carefully the  results of those close contacts  and the waste water 

>> The  Christchurch vaccination rate  is at a level that a number of  other countries around the  world have actually opened up  on. Does that give you I guess  a greater sense of optimism  about the potential spread in  the community? 

>> There's no  doubt that vaccination in both  Waikato and in Auckland at the  moment is playing a really  important role in helping  contain the outbreaks there. It  wasn't a major factor but it's  clearly something, but the  important thing here is double  vaccinated and fully immised.  That's still a wee way off.  It's about 70% across  Christchurch and 72% across the  whole country. So it's a few  more weeks before we get to the  90% double vaccinated 

>> Cleo,  Mark, Katie and then we'll see  how we go. 

>> You mentioned stop  Pacific countries before but  what about Australia? Is the  double - has the bubble pretty  much disappeared? 

>> Australia  is going through the process of  opening up their internal  borders now in Australia, and  we're not yet in a position  where we're opening our  internal borders here in New  Zealand. But of course, we want  to reconnect with Australia  soon, as soon as we can do that  safely, we're just not in a  position to provide any  certainty around when that will  happen at this point.   

>> (Inaudible) new requirements  for MIQ. 

>> That is the default  if there's an opportunity to do  something sooner than that,  we'll do that but at the moment  that would be the default.   

>> When delta first arrived in  April. It was almost three  quarters of cases in the UK. Do  you think mid/late July was too  late for the ministry to start  looking at how the response  changed? 

>> I want to reject  some of the claims that have  been made here. Since we  started our response to COVID- 19, we have been acutely aware  that the virus is continuing to  mutate hand that there are new  variants of the virus emerging  and we've continued to plan for  that. We've continued to plan  for the fact that the virus  could become more infectious,  so the fact that the word  "delta" isn't mentioned in  until a particular date in time  does not mean that we haven't  been continually working to  strengthen the arrangements we  have in plaips and the  potential responses that we  have here in New Zealand during  that time. A lot of work has  gone into that. There have been  other variants of the virus,  prior to delta, which is also  caused us to relook at our  settings as well. So I just - I  want to push back on the notion  that, you know, work wasn't  being done around continuing to  strengthen our defences against  COVID-19 prior to the word  "delta" being mentioned. In  fact, it's been a continual  process. The other point that I  mentioned is in terms of delta,  the variant of delta, the  actual evidence base, the  published research that allows  us to make informed decisions  about that only started to  emerge from sort of late  June/early July. 

>> I mean, you  yourself have said in the past  that looking back on the case  of the Sydney man who visited  Wellington in late June, you  might've considered a different  approach after getting some  thatch advice from the ministry  in July and August. You know,  is that a reflection of that  evidence base emerging or is  that because that planning  hadn't done prior? 

>> It's  absolutely as the evidence base  emerged. That is one of the  challenges right the way  through the COVID response, the  evidence continues to emerge  and the Ministry of Health I  think are doing a great job of  keeping abreast of the  international evidence. But we  can't ask them to crystal-ball  gaze and presume they know what  the evidence will be before the  evidence has been produced.   

>> For these suburbs in Auckland  where they have high positivity  rates, can you give what the  highest one or two positivity  rates are there? 

>> I don't have  that data. I thank the only one  I have described in the last  week has been Redvale. It was  up over 6%. I should say it's a  small suburb. It was just two  or three households had put it  up over 6%, that testing rate.  These will be anything that  have a positivity rate up over  1%. For the most part, it's at  or below half a per cent across  the Auckland region. 

>> Is it  possible as this outbreak in  Auckland continues to grow with  this reduced MIQ stay, that  actually very few rooms - new  rooms become available for  people stuck overseas and as  this outbreak continues to grow  even further, that actually, it  doesn't create any new rooms  for people stuck overseas?   

>> Not necessarily. Depends on  the nature of the cases that we  see in the community. We are  seeing more of those cases able  to isolate within the community.  And so that reduces some of the  pressure on MIQ. But at this  point, there's still some  uncertainty there around the  modelling. This gives us more  options, but yes, I think there  will be more rooms made  available. I don't want  expectations to be that  suddenly it's going to double  the number of rooms, because it  won't, because it will make  some more rooms available   

>> Given that you do have cases  already isolating at home, why  is it another two weeks before  these changes come into effect?   

>> They're isolating at home in  Auckland at the moment. There  are practical considerations  there. We just have to put the  systems in place W very to deal  with cohorting and the issues  around that. So there is a bit  of a lead time required.   

>> Technicality point, if  someone was to arrive say on 11  November, they will have to  stay for 14 days but if they  arrive on 14 November, they  stay for 7. 

>> At this point,  yes 

>> Naubl nubl 

>> Whenever you  make a change, you have to pick  a date from which it's  operational. We have to have  all the systems and processes  to operationalise the change   

>> What about the change in  cost? Are you hall offing the  cost? 

>> Yes, that's right. 

>> On  Katie's question about  isolating at home, are we still  sitting around 5900 mark for  cases and close contacts  isolating at home? And what  sort of support, is there any  issues with that, have you seen  a spread? 

>> I will ask the  Director-General to comment on  that. 

>> My recollection is  we've got 288 cases and if you  add in contacts, it's well in  excess of 500 cases and  contacts now are being cared  for at home. And no, we haven't  had any issues. In fact, the  report has been that there's  very positive feedback from  those people who are isolating  at home and we haven't seen any  spread. It's still pretty early  but we haven't seen any spread  or further cases arise from  those people being safely  looked after in the community.   

>> Contact tracing - is it still  sitting around the (inaudible)  to 180 mark for our capability  or has that changed, is that in  Auckland or is that across the  country? 180 cases a day   

>> Cases a day, yes. And that  was using the old categories we  were using. With this approach  to looking after people in the  community, we're changing the  way that I cases are followed  up. So there's an initial sort  of lighter interview to  identify what their health -  what the public health risk is,  any health needs and any social  support needs then a triaging  process to pass people on to  the level of further care that  might be implemented. Once we  implement that system across  Auckland, remembering that  Auckland is being supported by  public health units across the  country that will increase the  number of cases that can be  managed on a daily basis but  we're still within that limit   

>> In August when the reopening  framework was released, that  was based off advice from David  Skegg's group that said people  should be treated based on the  risk they pose the to the  country. What you're talking  about today is passport. Have  you had any evidence from Skegg  that has said that someone's  passport is more important than  the risk? 

>> Those who are fully  vaccinated should be treated  differently than those who are  not vaccinated. That's not  something that we can apply to  New Zealand citizens. New  Zealand citizens, even if they  are not vaccinated, have a  legal right to return back to  their country. So in terms of  passport status, that's where  that has the biggest impact on  the vaccination requirement,  but we are moving towards more  of an individualised risk  profile. That is absolutely  true. But ultimately, if you  look around the world, that  situation can change quite  dramatically, quite quickly,  and so we have to work on the  basis that people coming in are  relatively equal in risk, you  know, and so that's probably -  you know, when we were doing  that several months ago, we  were looking at a potential of  you could have whole countries  that were green countries as we  had with Australia. That  situation has kind of now  changed and there are going to  be fewer and fewer countries in  that situation. 

>> In terms of  MIQ in total, one of the things  that - not all rooms are still  being used so there's still 500  rooms a fortunate, a thousand  rooms a month that are set  aside in case there's some  issue with quarantine-free  travel. 

>> We're largely using  those to isolate community  cases at the moment 

>> 3800  rooms out of 4,500 that are  fully... 

>> That doesn't include  the community cases. So that is  just looking at the  international arrivals. So we  are using - the MIQ is very  full when you add in the  community cases that are  isolating in MIQ at the moment.   

>> On what you said before...   

>> Just on home isolation, is  there any fear this will create  a two tier system of people  that can afford to isolate  comfortably at home and then  those who can't, versus other  people that will go to MIQ?   

>> No, I'm not concerned about  that. By and large, I think  people who have the means to be  travelling internationally...   

>> (Inaudible) sort of looking  forward when COVID is more  endemic and people... 

>> You  mean with domestic cases so  cases in the community 

>> Yes.  We grapple with that now. It's  not just a socioeconomic thing.  It's all about the size of the  house hold someone's in. If  they're in a very large  household, regardless of the  socioeconomic status of that  household, there may be good  reasons why some of the people  in that household should  isolate somewhere else. I  wouldn't want to make  generalisations about that.  It's done a risk assessment,  not a socioeconomic assessment.  How do we minimise the risk of  COVID-19 spread ngd and uses  our MIQ resources to do that as  judiciously as we possibly can.   

>> Are any of you aware of  gatherings in Pila that have  been organised by people who  have tested positive for COVID  and were possibly infectious at  those faregs? 

>> News to me.   

>> Off the back of Derek's  question earlier, can you  confirm whether Cabinet when it  next meets will decide on  whether vaccine proof will be  necessary at airports in terms  of travelling in and out of  those regional hard borders?   

>> I'm not making any  announcements on that today. I  won't make an announcement  about an announcement where a  decision has not yet been made.  I'm sure you'd criticise me if  I did that 

>> Is it going to be  considered at the next Cabinet  meeting? Is it that urgent?   

>> Look, everything gets  considered at Cabinet meetings  around COVID-19 at the moment  and this is an ongoing decision.   

>> You said yesterday that the  nature of the cases in the  Waikato were similar to the  complications that the public  health teams face in Auckland.  Are you - do you think we've  learned the lessons of  Auckland? Despite the best  efforts in Auckland, cases  slipped away and they've now  spread across the city. How  much of a concern is that in  the Waikato at the moment?   

>> Public health teams in  Auckland have been talking to  the teams in Waikato about what  they've learned from their  experiences. Our units have  been sharing insights about  their experiences in dealing  with COVID-19 contact tracing  and a huge body of expertise  and nobble about that now  resides within given - within  Auckland given the amount  they've had to do. Butt the  hard to reach are the hard to  reach, wherever they are in the  country. It's still a  challenging situation for them  in the Waikato. 

>> Can I just  clarify a date? From November  14th, if anyone hits seven days  after that date, can they go  home and isolate for three days  or does it depend on the date  that they arrive? 

>> I will get  you some greater clarity about  that. But it's most likely -  pretty sure it's from the date  that they arrived. 

>> So...   

>> Those arriving after...   

>> After the 14th of November?   

>> Yes. But if that's - yeah.  I'm being given a nod that  that's correct. We'll wrap up  there. Thanks,   

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