Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: 62 new community cases – Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield

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* Vaccine mistake: Five people may have been given saline instead, investigation under way

There are 62 new Covid-19 cases in the community today and six sub-clusters have emerged in the outbreak.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says the total number of cases in the outbreak has now hit 210.

There are 12 people in hospital with Covid-19.

Bloomfield said the majority of case links were from households and workplaces. Some were from locations of interest.

There were six sub-clusters, including the Samoan church, and the Birkdale flat. There were 105 cases associated with the church now.

There were 14 cases associated with a Massey household, but the rest of the sub-clusters were less than 10 people so Bloomfield would not reveal what they were.

Bloomfield mentioned the racist remarks to those in the Samoan community as “disappointing and gutless.”

He said that the community had been “incredibly responsive” and were backing the effort to try to track down cases.

Of today’s case numbers, Bloomfield said it was “steady but not exponential growth”.

20,000 contacts of cases

The number of overall contacts had increased again to 20,383 as of this morning.

Twelve thousand and seven hundred of these people had been contacted – and 62 per cent had returned a test result.

A further 380 contact tracers were trained yesterday from Government departments.

On the close-plus contacts of those infected in the outbreak, there are 461 very close contacts. Eighty-one per cent had been contacted – and testing results were due on 289. Two hundred and twenty-one had so far tested negative.

He said contacts were not allowed to leave their homes for exercise, but their household companions could be provided they stayed away from others.

There are 22 community testing centres in Auckland – four are reserved for the high-risk testing from the clusters.

“Wherever you get a test, it is free.”

Crowne Plaza investigation

On the Crowne Plaza and the public walkways nearby, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there had been a thorough investigation of anyone who was in the vicinity at the times of potential exposure.

Bloomfield was not sure if there was any evidence of people being nearby when others in rooms adjacent to the NSW positive case were exercising in the exercise area.

Delays getting cases into Jet Park

There have been delays in getting Covid-19 cases into the Jet Park quarantine facility.

Hipkins said there was still capacity at Jet Park, and expected it was a public health consideration rather than space for the delays in people being admitted.

On delays in getting people into Jet Park, Bloomfield said part of the issue was safe transportation.

Jabs to essential workers

Hipkins says 80,000 people got a vaccine yesterday – the biggest day yet. There were also record numbers of tests.

Hipkins reminded people that over-30s could now book vaccines from today.

“Nobody wants to be in lockdown and the best way to return to enjoying the freedoms we have had is very high vaccinations.”

Hipkins said more than 6500 essential workers such as supermarket workers had been vaccinated over the last week.

The deadline for all border workers to get vaccinated was tomorrow and that would be checked.

The wider border workers – including ports – have a further month.

More than 1 million doses had been given out in Auckland generally – a third of all doses.

Hipkins disputed suggestions that Pacific health providers had not been going into churches to vaccinate people, saying he had been told they had been doing that.

He said once gatherings were able to begin again, after lockdowns, that would escalate.

1 MIQ case today

There is one new case in MIQ today.

In MIQ, officials are introducing a Day 6 test for those where there is a positive case on their floor.

The Government will be closely watching for any spread outside of Auckland ahead of its decision on Friday about whether to keep all of New Zealand at level 4.

Auckland’s lockdown was extended to August 31 and will not be reviewed until Monday, but the rest of New Zealand will be reviewed on Friday.

Investigation into saline vaccines

On the issue of whether people got saline vaccines at Highbrook vaccination centre, Bloomfield said it was in July.

At the end of a day a left-over vial indicated some people might not have received a vaccine that day.

He said immediate changes were made to ensure more regular checking of the vials, rather than leaving it to the end of the day, Labels were now also being out on syringes once they were drawn up.

Bloomfield said in mid-July there was no discussion around booster shots and Pfizer was a two-shot regime. He said they were now looking at whether to offer the 732 people at the centre that day a third dose, in case a small number had missed out on one dose.

Letters would be sent out to those people tomorrow, and decisions would be made on the third dose based on scientific advice.

Bloomfield said the investigation into the vaccines at Highbrook only began after media started asking questions about it.

He said there had been a range of views on what to do about those vaccinations. Asked why they had not gone public with it earlier, Bloomfield said those issues were being canvassed.

He said it was always the intention to contact the 700-odd people who were vaccinated on that day.

Hipkins said more primary care facilities were being brought into the vaccinations programme and about 650 vaccination places would be available.

Lockdown learning

On education in lockdown, Hipkins said learning from home was hard for parents, students and teachers. Extra support was being put in for teachers.

Further funding had been given to the Ministry of Education to ensure schools could support learning from home, including learning packs and about 7000 devices which would go out in the next few weeks.

The television channels for education had also started again today.

On Parliament, Hipkins said select committees were underway all week for ministers to answer questions on the response. “We are mindful of the need for that scrutiny and for Parliament to be able to come together as soon as possible.”

He said they were exploring a way for Parliament to meet virtually, as had happened in other countries. He was hoping for a consensus on that from other parties.

Hipkins – referring to his recent faux pas about telling Kiwis to socially distance when they go outside to “spread their legs” – said, “my message is, if you had a good laugh at my expense, go get a vaccine”.

STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG

STORY CONTINUES

Experts are expecting cases to continue to rise, with modelling now suggesting they could hit 1000.

In developments today, while compliance with lockdown rules has been deemed high, Police have put roadblocks in between Auckland and Northland to try to stop people travelling between the regions without valid reason.

The outbreak has also put the contact tracing, testing and quarantine system under pressure: some positive cases were now having to wait at home and had been told the Jet Park quarantine facility was full and alternative quarters were being prepared.

Testing samples were also sometimes taking days to be tested – Bloomfield has said they are only fast-tracking the samples of those considered to be at most risk because they were household or work contacts of a case, or in locations that were very high risk.

Public health director Caroline McElnay told a select committee yesterday that 11 per cent of the closest contacts had tested positive so far, and about half were yet to get results back.

There were a further 14,967 close contacts – 56 per cent had returned test results, and 0.2 per cent were positive.

Of about 405 casual plus contacts, half had been tested with no positive results so far.

As of yesterday there were 148 cases – most were in Auckland but there were 11 in Wellington.

Bloomfield also revealed the two largest clusters yesterday – including about 58 cases linked to a Samoan Assembly Of God Church service and 23 associated to a Birkdale flat, which included a workmate of the Devonport tradie who first tested positive.

Bloomfield said there were about six potential clusters all together, but has not revealed the other four. It is known that at least nine students at AUT have now tested positive.

Act leader David Seymour has called for the Government to be more transparent with the figures, including releasing daily the number of close contacts traced and tested, and how many were still outstanding. He said that information had only been presented after questions in a select committee and should be released daily.

Following the press conference, Hipkins will again appear before MPs on the health select committee again along with border officials.

The select committees are replacing Parliament, which was suspended for this week, and a string of ministers are lined up to speak on the Covid-19 response.

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