COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will update the media today at 1pm.Transcript
>> (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.
>> 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
>> By the end of the first quarter
>> 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.
>> 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.
>> 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,