COVID-19 update 29 November 2021 4pm

News article

29 November 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will give a post-cabinet announcement today at 4pm. The Prime Minister will be joined by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.


>> Kia ora koutou katoa. Good afternoon.

As you can see, I am joined by Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson who will shortly outline the economic support an applications transition into the new COVID protection system, one where at every state all businesses are able to remain open and to operate.

But first I will give a short update on the Omicron situation before moving to decisions by Cabinet on the different parts of the traffic light system that the current will move into on Friday.

At this stage we have no cases of the Omicron variant in New Zealand but the developing global situation shows us why our approach of ongoing caution at the border is needed.

 Over the weekend we took immediate steps to designate nine countries as very high risk, restricting the people who can travel to New Zealand to citizens only, and requiring them to stay in MIQ for the full 14 days and undergo five tests over that time. Omicron is a reminder of why we need a response that last carries us through this pandemic.

Some countries have had to close borders, or stand up quarantine facilities again. We already had a strong system in place and the ability to move swiftly to make it stronger still. This is a reminder of the risk that still exists at our border.

We are not powerless, though. There is a lot of evidence that needs to be gathered yet before we will know the full impact of this variant. Already you can see that the international community is working closely and quickly to determine what risk this variant poses.

 It may impact on our vaccines but it may not. It may be more severe, or it may be more mild than Delta. We simply do not know yet.

So the most important thing we can do is, firstly, use our border system to try and stop cases from entering the community, and we are doing that. Use public health settings as an extra layer of protection, which is exactly what the COVID protection framework does.

And finally, keep vaccinating to. That end,

Omicron has not changed the advice on boosters which are now available to anyone six months or more past their second dose.

To keep it simple, boosters are available to everyone but we are especially keen to see our border and health workers receiving this additional protection and those who may be more vulnerable, like our over 65-year-olds. I encourage you to book today or visit one of our many vaccination sites.

Now to today's Cabinet decisions. This week we begin the transition into a new and safer way of operating and we can do so with confidence.

Because we have come through the past two years of COVID in better shape than many other places in the world. We have had amongst the lowest case rates, hospitalisations and death rates in the OECD. Where many other places saw their life expectancy shortened, ours is amongst three where it has increased. As we head into the next phase we do so with the highest vaccination levels for COVID-19 too.

The hardest months have been hard, the hardest we have faced in the pandemic so far. But the sacrifice of so many has had an norm impact. We avoided the sort of cases we saw in Sydney and Melbourne. We have dramatically increased vaccination rates and we have done so with good spread across the country but that does not mean it is time to lift all restrictions as some countries have. We want to implement the system that will serve us well and last the distance. The alert levels did that for us for 20 months.

Now it is time for the COVID protection framework or the traffic lights to do the heavy lifting.

 This new system does not represent a considerable loosening of protections. What it does mean is using everything we have learnt so far in the tools we know make a difference. It is careful and it is cautious. But it also gives greater certainty to businesses.

So let's come then to where each district will move to as we kick off this new way of doing things. Vaccination rates are one of the key factors we considered when setting our region's colour in the new traffic light system, but we also considered the following.

Capacity of the health and disability system in a region. Testing. Contact tracing and case management capabilities. Transmission of COVID-19 within the community, the number of cases in regions and how they are spreading. And the impact the virus might have on vulnerable populations.

As we step into the framework for the first time, the way we use this criteria has been different to the way that we will apply it in the future. We have been cautious and that's because we want to carefully transition without seeing cases take off.

And so today, having weighed these factors up, I can confirm the following regions will move in at red this Friday. Northland, Auckland, Tapou and Rotorau Labors Khan sdrikt. Cairo. Whakatani. Gisbor, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts.

The rest of the North Island will move in at orange.

The whole of the South Island will also move in at orange.

 These settings will be in place for the next two weeks.

Cabinet will review settings again and provide an update before the summer break on Monday, 13 December.

We will then hold for roughly a month to allow us to see the impact of the shift and allow the settings to embed end.

They will then be reviewed again in the week of Monday, 17 January.

 From there we will get into a regular routine of reviewing settings on a fortnightly basis. With this initial designation, a key consideration has been vaccination levels.

All of the districts listed today have done an amazing job reaching into their communities but still have double dose rates in the 70% range for the eligible population.

We know the higher the vaccination levels the greater protection. Our hope is that we will continue to see a lift in rates over the next fortnight when we come to consider settings again in a few weeks. But now that we have set where districts will enter, what do they each mean.

 There are three key things to remember at every colour setting.

One, download your vaccine pass and have it ready to use so you can keep going to your favourite places.

Two, take your mask wherever you go and be ready to wear it.

And three, just like before, scan in wherever you go.

So it is masks, scan and pass.

At orange, the big change here for parts of the country that will enter into this setting is that for the vaccinated and where vaccine passes are used, there are no gathering limits. People can gather again safely.

At red, it will feel a lot like Level 2. Your vaccine passport will let you go everywhere but number limits of 1090 will apply to most activities.

And importantly - because I know there is a question many Auckland people have - you can now see family and friends again in their homes and use the bathroom inside. Luxury.

If you are unvaccinated, you can gather with others but the gathering limits are lower across each of the levels.

So as you can see, for the vast majority of New Zealanders with your My Vaccine Pass life will feel a lot like it did before.

For the unvaccinated it will be more restricted.

That is the best way that we can ensure that the unvaccinated are protected too. For more general information on the framework head to the Union Against COVID 19 website at

We also want to make sure that we answer any questions that business may have as quickly as we can. Please, if you have a question, do call 0800 424 946. Having a vaccine pass is key under the framework so if you haven't got yours yet go to MyCOVID or phone 1800 442 278 to request a physical copy.

We know some don't have the ability to access a#245ir pass online. If you or anyone you know need support you can, as well as calling the 1800 number, also visit a pharmacies that is currently offering vaccines. These same pharmacies will be able to print out our COVID pass for you.

 Finally, as we enter this next phase in our response to COVID I want to say thank you. Every New Zealander has played a part in our world- leading response.

A year and a half ago, as we moved out of our first lockdown, ip likened that point in our COVID journey as being halfway down Everest knowing that we had to keep moving sayly through a perilous descent. It has been perilous.

After a sustained period of being open the Delta variant finally arrived. No country it has entered as been able to get rid of it so far and it now accounts for 99.7% of all case said worldwide.

So while it hasn't been able to be possible to eliminate Delta this time, New Zealand did something truly remarkable in managing to keep Delta suppressed while we get our populations vaccinated. Getting 2.2 million people vaccinated in just the past 100 days.

There are 160,889 Kiwis now due for a second dose. If everyone got it this week we would be at 89.3% fully vaccinated. That would be remarkable and such a gift to the team of 5 million.

So finally, as we enter the next phase, the same thing that was important two years ago remains so still.

Please be kind.

Be kind to yourself.

It has been a hard and stressful year.

Be kind to each other, everyone and I mean everyone is doing their best. T

here will be challenges ahead. We will continue to see cases and in places we haven't see far but we will get through just like we did last time and just like we will this time - together.

Look, I will now hand over to Minister Robertson who will make announcements relating to economic support during this next phase.

>> Thank you, Prime Minister.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that this outbreak has been hard on businesses and workers around the country and in particular in Auckland, Waikato and Northland.

Operating with the restrictions in place under the alert level system has been tough but those restrictions have helped keep the outbreak under control and I want to thank everyone for their support in this.

The government has provided more than $6 billion of support for businesses since 17 August through the wage subsidy and resurgence support paymentses.

 As we move into the new traffic light system almost all businesses will be able to operate but the government is aware some support may still be needed as we transition into that framework. That's why Cabinet has agreed to a new transition payment for affected businesses which will mostly those in Auckland, Waikato and north land.

The one-off payment will be activated through the resurgence support system using the same criteria and will be available from December 10.

The period to assist affected revenue will be between 3 November and 9 November 2021. This covers a period where Northland, Auckland and Waikato were all on Alert Level 3 at various points.

The payment is at a higher per business rate than the current RSP, which will be $4,000, plus $400 per FTE, up to a maximum of 50 FTE and, therefore, a maximum payment of $24,000. The Treasury has estimated that the likely total cost of this payment will be between $350 and $490 million.

 As I said last month when we announced the framework, we are moving away from the broad-based economic supports such as the wage subsidies scheme and the Resurgence Support Payment that has been provided under the alert level system.

This is because at all levels of the new framework most businesses will be able to operate. It is worth noting that this transition payment is in addition to the final wage subsidy and Resurgence Support Payments which opened for application on Friday.

These will continue to be open for application and will still pay out even though we are moving to the new framework, and even though a small amount of the period for the revenue drop for them will be under the new framework.

As we move through the transition period, we will monitor any economic impacts that the system is having on businesses and I will report back to Cabinet in early 2022 on this and make recommendations for any further support as is necessary.

To be clear about this, if it is deem that had there is further necessary targeted support, it would only be available under the red setting of the new system.

As we indicated in October, under orange and green we will not be providing the widespread economic supports that we have in the past. That is beyond the Leave Support Scheme and the Short Term Absence Payment. On those, I can confirm that they will be available to support those who need to self isolated, including when waiting for test results, as they do now at every level of the new framework.

We are refining the system for these payments, including moving to a weekly basis for calculation reflecting the new isolation periods.

Before we end of the year we will also confirm the support that will be available in the event of any localised lockdowns.

As we aassess the impanth of the framework, we remain aware that there are particular sectors that continue to be impacted by COVID-19. It is worth noting that the small business cashflow loan scheme remains in operation and we are looking again at whether it needs to be tweaked to provide appropriate support going forward.

In terms of other support, the $60 million package for business advice and mental health support to help Auckland businesses through this transition period that we announced late last month is being rolled out.

And as we have previously stated, if the business advice elements of this package are oversubscribed we will look to expand it to meet demand.

Finally, I want to know that the activate website was launched on November 17 for link to see business an supports. We have been in discussion with Auckland businesses and representativeses and the Auckland Council about this program. We will have more to say later in the week about how we can support it.

Back to you Prime Minister.

>> Thank you Deputy Prime Minister.

 I will now just ask Dr Bloomfield to join us on the podium for any questions.

>> What hope do regions have of spending their summer in orange?

>> The first thing I would point out is that for those districts who are moving into red, it will feel very similar to what they are experiencing now with the addition of vaccine passes. So very similar levels of protections but the addition of vaccine passes to again give us that extra tool to make sure that we are protecting people now that e- would have vaccinations in place. We are reviewing in two week's time and we doll that in an open-minded way, looking again at whether or not we have seen a lift in vaccination rates alongside considering all of those other health factors.

>> The regions that you have in red at the moment include Gisborne and Northland, the home of the festival. So did you basically just kill...

>> Ultimately those decisions will be for those festivals. We recognise that e- would have set in place settings for the next two weeks. If they make a decision that they will be unable to go ahead, it is one of the reasons that we did put in place a transition support regime knowing that this period is difficult for those festival organisers and knowing that they may need extra support as we go through this transition.

>> What would be your advice for them looking at the current settings.

>> Ultimately I can't make a commercial decision but what we have been able to do is give them the best possible chance to push out that decision- making and offer them some support for costs that cannot be recovered.

>> Yes, Prime Minister, but the certainly of that two-week check-in I guess is quite hard for them.

>> The entire reason that we set up that transition support is because we recognised as we move into this framework over summer there will be uncertainty. There will be some a little further out that will be able to see the fatsdz way for them. There are festivals in the south that will be able to go ahead. But in some regions there is support and uncertainty and that is what they are about.

>> The areas that are going into traffic light red have no COVID at all.

>> Yes.

>> Do you have a message for those people who may be frustrated in those areas.

>> I don't think that the regions that are moving will necessarily be surprised. We have indicated very strongly that one of the central decision-making factors for us would be vaccination rates. Because as you can see, yes, there will be regions that are free of COVID now but we are seeing the odd case being seeded despite all the protections that are in place. So these are preventive measures. We have indicate that had as we step into the new framework, ease the Auckland boundary, we will be making decisions that are very cautious through that period.

>> Will you at least be able to monitor these regions that are in traffic light red now.

>> A very important point to make here is that there are no hard borders with the exception of the Auckland boundary. So as you know, that changes through December, requirements around testing and vaccination for those exiting Auckland stay in place until the middle of January. But other than that, there are no hard borders in this traffic light system. And so people will be moving. As for enforcement and compliance, yes, we want to make sure that we are supporting businesses as they check vaccine passes and so on but it will be different to the border-based compliance you have seen so far.

>> There is no need to police it.

>> No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying the policing will be around supporting compliance at venues, ensuring that they are able to operate the vaccine pass check safely T won't be congregating around borders because the border that still exists is the Auckland one. There weren't others.

>> Prime Minister, you say you are taking a cautious and carefully approach. That is fair though given how vaccinated we are and where we are almost two years in dealing with this now?

>> I think one of the advantages we have as a country is by and large we do have quite good spread of our vaccine uptake. You can see how critical that is m when you look overseas. In some places it may look like they have high vaccination rates but if you have even one region where it diplomas a bit lower that risks seeing outbreaks. We want to continue driving up the level of vaccine we have right across the country to reduce the risk of outbreaks. This new COVID protection framework, its use of vaccine passes will actually help us lift vaccine operates as well as help protect us.

>> You will be creating a divide when you have got a whole region held back by a few pockets of people who don't want to get vaccinated. And is that concerning?

>> With the exception of Auckland, at the moment the whole country is in Level 2. On Friday, those regions that moved to red, it will feel very similar, except now with vaccine passes. So those vaccine passes add extra protection but the idea of it being heavily restricted, I really push back on. For the most part, people in red will have a very similar feeling to what they do now.

>> Potential vulnerabilities, please - the different shift to home isolation, for example. So a couple of cases, someone travelling on a fright to get to Christchurch. Has tested positive. But also the report isolating at home and critical about preventible deaths. Can you just talk people through what the difference is going to look like and what support they are going to have in this new framework.

>> I will cast forward to the arrangements of if someone finds themselves infected with COVID-19 away from their home. Then I will ask Dr Bloomfield to speak to some of the general questions. For the most part, even if someone is found to have COVID-19 away from their usual place of residence, for the most part, people will have a place that they can isolate. Regardless, the hub lick health unit will talk with that individual and work through whether or not they can continue to isolate in the place that they are currently rest siding in at that time. If they need extra supports to isolate somewhere else, the public health unit is able to work that through with them. Dr Bloomfield.

>> So two things to add to that. The first is, you lefred to the case we have got in Christchurch where this was actually a Pharno whoing iffed their seven days in self- isolation. On day nine one returned a positive test at home. Remember for all dem and air travel there are a number of precautions in place, including mask use. From December, the requirement for everyone to be fully vaccinated or to have been tested. So there is a high level of protection for people on those flights anyway so we are not worried about a high risk there from people moving around. The second is what can people expect when they are being looked after or self-isolating at home. Yes, you referred to the report that has been released today and just to add to the apology which has already been made, that actually, and to reiterate that, what it has shown is ways that we can improve the system and that has already happened. But secondly, the report, which was very good, refers to the fact that our information systems across different parts of the health system do not link up. Now, I have worked 30 years in the health system and that has been a holy grail to make that happening. One of the things that is happening to support managed isolation in the home setting or isolation at home is that these information systems are being linked up across primary care, hospital, healthlthline and so on, so that whoever is doing the check-in with people has access to all the relevant information. That is a huge improvement on the system.

>> People are in much more light touch from public health. If there are more pieces out there, people isolating at home without that direct contact, do you think people are aware of that and are ready for that along with more COVID cases actually in the community and potentially people travelling around while positive?

>> So threat me be clear, there will still be regular contact from either Healthline or from public health. Likewise as is happening now, where we are seeing cases in the region outside of Auckland, there is very active follow-up contact tracing, isolation and support of them. Into but it is quite different...

>> Jane, just on the idea of people moving around whilst positive, before they exit any queue they have to urine a negative test. That is critical to point out - that on exit people are returning test.

>> You said if someone was positive away from home there will be discussion.

>> When I say discussion, that does not mean somebody is going to take a flight to go back to their home. Of course not. But if someone is isolating in a place which is not fit for purpose, then there would be a discussion around whether or not they can safe relocate to another place without exposing others. I would disagree with the idea of light touch. We are still maintaining a minimise around protect. We don't have a tolerance of COVID in our community. That is why we are still isolating close contacts. That is why we are still having household contacts remain at home. It is why we are still cautious at our border. We are maintaining some of those core fundamental tools that will reduce people's potential exposure to COVID-19.

>> Can I get a quick follow on that. Dr Bloomfield, two weeks ago you said the home isolation program was working well. Why did you tell the public that when a review into two deaths paints a very worrying pick fur about for and delayed clinical oversight.

>> The report reiterates that for many people the system has been working well and continues to improve. The reason the review was done was because there had been these two deaths of people who were isolating at home alone, this is very appropriate. We do this in hospitals. For every death in hospital there is a review to see what can be learnt, what improvements can be made. In this case it was identified that there were slip-ups the in the system and things that could have been done better and that the deaths were potentially prevent I believe. Improvements have been made so that the system is working even better for people.

>> A slip-up, would you say. Preventible deaths potentially.

>> As I said, the report found that the deaths were potentially prevent yibl and the point of doing the review is to find out exactly where were the areas that needed to be strengthens the red and improved and those improvements have been put in place.

>> Luke, and then Jason and Henry.

>> Prime Minister, when you announced a couple of week ago that today we would be learning about the new settings, you said you would outline some of the questions around when the country could go into... I was hoping you could give us some details. Into yes. Obviously we have said through this transition period we don't have any expectation that parts of the country will be can in green. That's because we are in a stage where we are seeing over a period cautiously a change in the way that the Auckland boundary will work. A shift into the new framework and some changes to our other settings. So we want to step through that cautiously. And the in the same way previously that when we have had changes we made sure we have had public health settings in the rest of the country that act preventatively that in cases we have cased there we are in the best possible position to manage them. That's had the reason we will have parts of the country in red. Beyond that will be the same criteria I have set out. We will be looking at the transmission of any given outbreak at any given time. The pressure on the public health system, our ability to continue to contact trace successfully. Any pressure on the hospital system from those cases. And, of course, ongoing surveillance and vaccination rates. Although, once you reach those rates then obviously you expect them only to get better.

>> For example, the South Island continues to have not many cases when you are checking that again. January 17, if there are a handful of cases down there...

>> They are doing everything right. The issue for the South Island is less about what they have done and their circumstances and more about the fact that the country is transitioning right now and through that transition we need to make sure that we are cautious.

>> Did you that. What I'm trying to get at, at what point can people have a...

>> The point I'm making is that as I have said, the way we have applied the criteria in these initial decisions is different. In fact, the South Island has done exactly what they need to. It is more the fact that we are transitioning into the new framework is the reason that they are in orange and over time we would likely see that change. I think I said Jason and then Henry, didn't I?

>> To be quite clear, are you telling New Zealand there is going to be no-one in green before the New Year's

>> Yes, we are saying over the summer period, through this transition - because keep in mind the Auckland boundary only lifts in the middle of December. We expect the country will be either in orange or red settings through that period.

>> Can you explain the Cabinet's rational in terms of what might happen for a region to go the other way, for example, to go from orange back to red? Is that something that can happen and what would need to happen?

>> Yes, I don't see that in the next two weeks. That that would be likely. Because, of course, vaccination rates won't go backwards. But the thing that would be a factor for us is if we saw, for instance, an outbreak that was growing at a rate that looked like it may potentially put pressure on contact tracing on our hospital or health care system and so on.

>> Also finally, on Waikato, from the graph you have sent out, that is in the orange setting or it will be. There are still confirmed cases within the community within that region. Can you explain your rational

>> Correct. But actually, what this framework does, orange puts greater protections in place by using vaccine passes. So it is actually a greater level of protection than necessarily what you are seeing now and think have been operating at quite some time keeping in check an outbreak that continues to be linked. It just happens to have a long tail. Equally, you can see that the vaccination rates are really solid in that region as well. I said that I would come to Henry.

>> You went to the 70s for double-vaccination rates. Can you talk about those.

>> For many of those districts, that's right.

>> Are you saying they can manage 80 as orange given there are no cases there. If things remain stable as they are. Also, some South Island areas are below that. Gisborn is below that.

>> So two things there. Firstly, vaccination has been a significant factor but not the only one. And what I would say about the South Island is yes, there are pockets of the South Island and some districts that have had slightly lower rates, keeping in mind that my recollection is for the West Coast some 500 doses shy of hitting some of their targets for first doses. So their population base, obviously being smaller, has an impact there. But the other factor to keep in mind is that for the change, the movement across the country, we have the ability to check every single person as either double-vaccinated or tested before they are going into the South Island so we factored that in as well.

>> I will let you finish.

>> In the 70s range that is orange...

>> As I said, it is one of the factors and it has been a significant one for this first decision. It won't be the only one as we go into - after that next two weeks. But for those parts of the country that do want to see a setting change before Christmas, then I would encourage everyone to work really hard on vaccination rates.

>> Jessica and then I will come back over here.

>> How concerned are you if Omicron gets into New Zealand and what further restrictions. What further restrictions would you like to see in place to stop that from happening?

>> Well, I think the first thing to say is we are doing what we have done right through the pandemic, and that is try to keep the virus out as much as possible to give us time to learn more. WHO put out an update today which I can characterise as saying we don't really know much about this virus. But the important thing is, as the PM mentioned earlier on, by far the dominant circulating variant globally and certainly our outbreak here in New Zealand is Delta. And we know that our current vaccine is highly effective against that. So what e- we are looking at first is whether there is anything else we should be doing at the border to reduce the likelihood we get on it getting across the border in thener term. We have already put in place additional measures. No-one coming from the nine countries, it is a 14- day managed isolation period. Anyone who has lefted managed isolation and who is in the community who may have come from those countries we are contacting at the moment and they will be doing a further seven rather than three days in the community with a Day 12 test. So it is really looking to keep it out while we learn more about it, including its transmission iblt, the impact it has on severity of disease and also rapidly we should know within a week or two from lab studies the exiveness on this strain.

>> What are some of the other things you are looking at doing around the border?

>> Just to see if there is anything else we would do at the border are you teenly, given that we are already seeing a growing number of countries where Omicron variant has been found, including Australia as you are aware. Whether there is any change to the current length of stay and the testing regime. At this stage we are not advising anything in particular but we will keep that under advicement.

>> Jessica?

>> Are you aware of concerns from home care workers and support workers who have been supplied food-grade gloves to use as PPE?

>> No, I'm not aware of that. I would be surprised because we have an incredibly good supply of gloves here in our PPE stores. So I'm happy to follow that up and see if that is an issue.

>> There is certainly no shortage of medical-grade gloves, the PPE supply is all good?

>> That is my understanding yes. We have a very good concern of gloves. Into Prime Minister, for Omicron, the WHO is recommending that we shouldn't be cancelling flights because it is a blunt tool. Do you stand by cancellation of flights?

>> We have been totally consistent all the way through this pandemic. We have always used our borders as a means of protection and we will continue to do so. The World Health Organization has consistently taken a different view but we have found that the ability to use quarantine at our borders as we have in place now is proving vital for COVID management, particularly as we see this new variant emerge. OK, yes. Sorry, in the front.

>> The emergence of Omicron, did it influence any of the decisions you made around the traffic light system. Into no. Actually, as we have consistently said, in many ways it adds a greater level of protection through the use of vaccine passes. So yes, the alert level system has served us really well but now we want to continue to use the tools we have and the vaccine pass in addition to that. The commentary I have seen from scientists in particular has been that whilst we are undertaking work to better understand the impact of Omicron, the things that are fundamental are things like mask use, contact tracing. You know, isolation of cases. All the things that we have been doing to date and will continue to do under this framework.

>> Some countries are cancelling travellers more broadly than from southern Africa. Is that something that you are considering at this point?

>> They will be countries that won't necessarily have the kinds of protections we have. We put people through a managed isolation system and we test them rigorously while they are there. They won't be something that operates in all countries so the quickest thing for many of them would be to simply close down the borders. Keep in mind that we will continue to review whether or not any other countries need to be added to our very high risk country list as well.

>> Does the sort of American Omicron variant underscore the need for vaccine equity around the world and, Prime Minister, as well, are you disappointed to see the trips processed still being helped up by countries and the UK

>> On your first question, yes, it is very important that as part of the global pandemic response that countries can afford to support vaccine availability and low income countries, that has certainly been a key part of our advice to government about donations. And we have also provided of course direct support to a number of countries not just with vaccine but support to help with vaccine operations. The best way to develop the emergence of these variants is to reduce the amount of infection there is globally. That reiterates the point.

>> On the Minister I am meeting in Geneva, yes, it is ace shame but you can understand the circumstances under which it has been... I think that the world has two challenges that we must meet. Firstly, equitable vaccine distribution, absolutely. But at the same time, support for the distribution in and support in whatever way we come to overcome hesitancy. In some cases countries have had limited access and in others they have had access but the ability to distribute and then have the receipt of those vaccines welcomed has been challenging. Now, we won't have all the answers there. You have to have a good understanding of a pop u tliegs know what the answer is there but I do think that is one of the challenges.

>> It has been six months since both the US and New Zealand came out in favour of that waiver. Have you been pushing the whole vax in the IU to come around on this issue.

>> Of fik focus for us in the past few months has been ensuring the smooth movement at the border of vaccinations as they stand. So making sure we remove tariffs and any restrictions that may exist on vaccines and vaccine consumables. We have done that successfully at the same time supporting the wider work of trips. The next challenge as well will be making sure that we have wide access to anti- virals. Because in those countries perhaps where they see hesitancy, they may see greater up take of treatment and we need to ensure that the equitable as well. I might if I can just go to those who haven't had a question yet. Michael down the back. Sorry, who hasn't?

>> I have got lots of questions.

>> Sorry, what did I say? Forgive me. John, Michael, and in the front.

>> Prime Minister, in Auckland the fatal shooting today, have you spoken to police about this and are you concerned that police have lost control of law enforcement? No, I do not hold that later concern. I have not had a chance to be briefed on the incident in Auckland yet as a result of Cabinet meetings throughout the afternoon but I do intend to touch base with the Police Minister.

>> Are you concerned about the spate of recent shootings particularly in parts of West Auckland.

>> What I would say is that, of course, we have taken direct action to try and reduce down the access and nature of firearms that are being accessed in the #w50ider community. So you will see that we have moved on licensing. We have removed those weapons that are military-style and for the most part when in the hands of criminal fraternity are designed to cause mass devastation. We have taken on firearms. We will continue to do so. The efforts of police have also been very focussed on the seizure of both firearms and criminal assets through a number of operations that have been very successful and we will continue to support them to do that work. Yes, sorry, I said Michael and then I came down the back.

>> In Auckland, specifically what things are you looking for to move the city to orange. Do you see that happening at all?

>> Because you will see very solid rates of vaccination in Auckland, they have done an incredible job for them in relation to the out break and just the ongoing outbreak management. So that's what we will be looking to.

>> Are you concerned about case numbers?

>> Yes, just whether or not we have seen what has been described to me as modellers as at least a plateauing, which is really positive. I think we would really want to see that really get better. Perhaps, Dr Bloomfield, you might like to comment on what we have seen in relation to the Auckland in Auckland.

>> Yes, to add to that, we have certainly seen the plateauing in cases and hospitalisations, which is good. It will be interest to go see over the next couple of weeks as auk lavend moves into the red setting - which does, compared with the current setting, opens things more up including hon talent but with the use of vaccine passes. So we have seen this plateauing in the situation where Auckland move from Level 3.1 to 3.2. So it is a good sign and it really does reflect the high vaccination rates and we will be looking to see that plateau and continue and hopefully a decline in cases. That would be a good signal the outbreak is well under control.

>> The move to the red setting, that the cases will continue to plateau. What does the modelling show.

>> It seems (INAUDIBLE)

>> That's right, the modelling, it is hard to predict exactly what will happen. Again the key influence of what is happening here is the high vaccination rates. Those are still going up not down day by day. From today they have started the booster program as well. That pris in especially those healthcare and border staff. Among the first people vaccinated wrr wr those in Auckland. They can get that increase in immunity for those individuals.

>> Xhil from here and here and I will come to questions for Minister Robertson.

>> Just on the home isolation deaths, are you now confident there won't be any more potentially death and that the failings in the require of systems et cetera have all been fixed and they are not going to happen again?

>> So the work on the information systems is continuing. The processes for handover between agencies are much stronger. At the moment there are really good workarounds while the information systems have been linked up. Our intention is, of course, to prevent avoidable deaths in the community, indeed in any health care setting. I'm confident the system is much stronger and one of the recommendations that is being implemented of course is to put a clinical governance group across will whole top of that system. That will be doing ongoing review to see check and see if there are any signals that might suggest that the system isn't working as well as it could. So that's parts of the ongoing quality improve..

>> The Delta outbreak was traced back to MIQ...

>> Well, we still don't know. We still don't know. Sfloot it is one of the options. Can you assure the public that Omicron won't sneak through?

>> Well, the first thing I would say is that actually, we explored every possible avenue. You will recall there was one poor MIQ worker who was tested in every possible way to establish if they were the route out of MIQ and it was never established. Of course, you will recall that we have had - I think it is somewhere in the order of now 190,000 people who have come through our managed isolation facilities. It has operated very successfully for us and we will continue to use those very stringent settings to prevent cases from entering our community. And we will continue to do so with this variant as well, as we do with the Delta variant, which of course we know is the dominant variant at present. The point I would make is it was only a few days ago that cries from the Opposition in particular came for us to get rid of all managed isolation facilities immediately. I stand by our decision not to do that. I stand by all of the decisions we have made through this pandemic. We have always been cautious. We have always focussed on evidence and we have always tried to create settings that will help us navigate the entirety of this pandemic. Not just the political cycle.

>> Minister Robertson?

>> How disappointing is it that four days out from their first ever game the Wellington Phoenix still don't have a sponsor.

>> Look, I would encourage any corporate interested in supporting a team that is playing in a Trans-Tasman competition will be paying a high level of football to get in behind that team. We have historically seen corporates reluctant to sponsor major women's sports teams but all over the world audiences for women's sport are increasing and here in New Zealand it is a big part of our strategy. So I would certainly encourage that. I know the Phoenix organisation have been working hard. They will make sure that the team is well-supported while they are looking for a sponsor.

>> The sponsorship talks to...

>> Women's sport has struggled for visibility and to be properly valued. It is the reason why when I became the Minister of Sport we put it as our number of priority. We have invested significantly, in coaching high-performance and community sport as well. Again, I say get on board if you are a corporate sponsor out there. This is a team that is going to be high profile and there is great opportunity there. Let's see what else is out there. Into e- would are supporting quite a few competitions at present.

>> Mr Robertson, could you tell us what is the situation for businesses that choose not to enter the traffic light system and are effectively because they don't have customers because they are not allowed to. Will they also get the support payment.

>> The transition support payment relates to a revenue period before the framework comes into operation. So the transition payment looks backwards to whether or not your revenue was affected when vaccine certificates - vaccine passes weren't here. Looking forward from here I have expressed my view if we are using a revenue drop basis for support and that revenue drop is caused by the fact you have not used a certificate regime it is my view those kinds of economic supports should not be available. As it happens we are not proposing those at this time but that certainly remains my view.

>> Of the money that was paid to businesses last year and this year, those non-financial businesses have increased their cash transaction accounts by $20 billion over the time the government gave them $14 billion. Will you be looking to claw that $14 billion back and the $490 million today.

>> No, and that's because we didn't go into this with that basis. The people who signed up for these schemes didn't sign it up with a claw-back provision within it. I think we discussed this very matter on 22 October an the small businesses have not had that kind of return. It has mainly been the very larger ones that have. These supports that we have had throughout this period of this outbreak have largely been targeted towards small businesses, the Resurgence Support Payment and that transition payment are kepted at that 50 FTE level. What businesses may choose to do in terms of whether or not they believe they got the support because they were earn canned that things would happen and then they didn't, we have seen a number of businesses pay back. That's entirely up to them. But I think it would be bad faith of me to ask to claw back when that wasn't what people signed up for. Into last question and they will come to you.

>> It is not fair to claw back from businesses.

>> Well, when businesses are overpaid for something in any description they will be entered for the money back. This is not a case of overpayment. It is simply a case of the way the scheme was set up. I would also say that a big chunk of this money #45s gone through and supported people to stay in work and keep their jobs. The money has actually gone to workers, some of them low income workers, to make sure they are in work and we stand here today with a 3.4% unemployment rate. So I think in that sense the wage subsidy scleem in particular has served its purpose.

>> Prime Minister, a big day tomorrow for the National Party. Who is your money on?

>> I can hand on heart say that obviously with decisions that Cabinet around moving into the new traffic light system, making sure we have got protections against Omicron, pandemic management generally, the ongoing leadership challenges for the National Party are not something I would turn my mind to. Did you have any questions for Minister Robertson

>> What do you think about that?

>> OK. We will come to you. Then we might wrap.

>> Is there a possibility that Auckland moves into orange and then the December update many or can people... Into yes, those are decisions we haven't predetermined. We have been very clear about what we expect around green but beyond what we expect around wanting to lift vaccination levels beyond that. Cabinet will make a decision in good faith in two week's times. The one other thing that I would say is that for those areas that have felt anxious, I think what they will find was if they have lower vaccination levels that red does afford freighter protections for them. Though these a message I would send to those communities who may have concern. We are doing this now because we do believe it adds an extra layer. And on the flip side, those who might be disappointed to be in orange, well actually, relative to now, with vaccine passes you can move back to gatherings again. So it does actually offer more. It is fair to say that there is something in it for everyone. Lsht Jason, last one.

>> That was actually mine but I guess on bre half of a colleague what does today's decision mean for alfresco dining?

>> Well, the ability for alfresco designing, which I know some in this room will be very pleased to hear H you can continue with alfresco dining but on Friday, for Auckland yrngs, they will also be able to dine indoors and use an indoors lavatoly which will be a welcomed change.

>> We better go, Prime Minister, we are on a deadline.

>> That was a joke.

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