Rule breakers breaching their bubbles are responsible for increased spread of Covid-19 in Auckland, the Government has confirmed.
And after the country recorded a spike in community infections yesterday, experts are warning cases could rise even further given the number of “mystery” cases still not linked to existing clusters.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newshub this morning that some of the 45 new cases of Covid-19 would likely have been due to people not adhering to the level 3 restrictions.
“There will undoubtedly be some people who have not followed the rules in this.”
While he took “some comfort” in many of yesterday’s 45 community cases being household or close contacts, case investigators were still looking into how the remaining infected people – especially the 12 mystery cases – caught it. He expected more details on this today.
But not everyone was rule breaking, and in many instances there were known or acceptable interactions that had happened, he said.
When pressed on how these new cases had become infected, Hipkins said very few people had caught Covid just from going to the supermarket and he was not aware of this being the cause of the spread in any of yesterday’s cases.
Hipkins told Newstalk ZB officials still wanted to get “down to zero” cases and the Government wasn’t waving the white flag yet.
if Kiwis wanted to drop alert levels and continue have the freedom they have previously had then fewer Covid cases were needed.
Level 4 and 3 restrictions were still a “pretty big hammer” in the fight against Covid, but the Government had other tools in its tool kit and would look to deploy those where it could.
The Government would not make a decision on whether the country could move alert levels until Monday and it was premature to speculate before then.
It comes as experts are warning Auckland will need to stay in level 3 while the country’s vaccination rates increase.
They had previously said the impact of Auckland loosening restrictions and moving down to level 3 would take between seven and 10 days to be felt.
Epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson said yesterday’s case numbers were a “wake-up call” for New Zealanders and would probably get worse.
“Auckland is not getting out of level 3 until we don’t have mystery cases.”
The only way to win the war was by vaccination, he said.
Jackson said elimination was only a short-term strategy and Delta had made it much shorter term.
Auckland didn’t need to go back to level 4 because level 3 was also elimination, but certain high-risk suburbs in Auckland should be ringfenced.
Covid modeller professor Shaun Hendy said while they needed a few more days of numbers to get a clearer picture, the 12 mystery cases were quite alarming.
“Unfortunately this is a signal we may see more cases in the future.”
Hendy said people had lost their tolerance with level 4 and he thought level 3 could also do the job of keeping Covid-19 at bay if paired with vaccination.
Hendy said the mystery cases may have disappeared if level 4 had been extended for another week.
ACT Party leader David Seymour told TVNZ said the Government’s strategy to eradicate Covid was no longer working and it was time to change strategies.
“People are going to die because New Zealand is going to be a poorer country if we persist with a futile eradication model,” Seymour said.
“We can’t afford to keep waiting.”
He believed New Zealand could still reach the 90 per cent vaccination target rate.
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