Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Today’s cases, Chris Hipkins to reveal alert level decisions for Northland, Waikato

The alert level settings for Northland and Waikato are set to be revealed by Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, who will also provide an update at 1pm on when Auckland schools might open.

It follows a new Covid-19 case last night, a truck driver who travelled from Auckland to Northland and back, though Hipkins has already said this won’t necessarily mean level 3 in Northland will be extended. You can watch the 1pm press conference live here.

The weaknesses at the boundary have come under intense scrutiny as case numbers in Auckland continue to rise, and the virus continues to escape the city.

It has already been carried to Palmerston North, Waikato, and at least twice to Northland.

The rise in cases in Auckland also have public health experts pushing for a “circuit-breaker” return to level 4 for Auckland, though the Government has said that the likelihood of public compliance is a factor in making this unlikely.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield will also reveal the latest case numbers at the 1pm press conference.

Alert level 3 in Northland and parts of the Waikato are currently in place until the end of Thursday.

Auckland will stay in step 1 of level 3 until at least 11.59pm next Tuesday, with Cabinet meeting on Monday to review that setting.

There have been no cases detected in Northland, but two women who later tested positive for the virus travelled there from Auckland at the start of October.

One of them has been co-operating with public health officials since she was caught by police on Monday night, but so far only one additional location of interest – a Subway eatery in Whangārei – has been published since then.

Whangārei tyre business Steve Taylor Tyres posted itself as a location of interest on its Facebook page yesterday after the truck driver – who later tested positive – was on site at the Kamo premises on October 9.

This is yet to be added to the Ministry of Health’s official locations of interest site.

Hipkins said this morning that there was potentially only one day of exposure events from the truck driver’s Northland visit.

There were three new cases in Waikato yesterday, but they were all already in isolation as they were household contacts of a known case.

There were no unlinked cases in Waikato as of yesterday, and testing rates have been good.

But the number of active unlinked cases in Auckland has ballooned. Yesterday there were 74 such cases, the seventh straight day the number has risen. A week ago there were 15.

There were 40 new cases in Auckland yesterday, and Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank says the number of cases – now doubling roughly every 12 days – could hit 160 by early November.

Epidemiologist Dr Amanda Kvalsvig said level 4 in Auckland should be considered.

“A move back to alert level 4 is the best and probably only chance of reversing these highly-concerning trends that are all moving in the wrong direction. Vaccination is not going to happen fast enough to reverse these trends and we need to buy time.”

Hipkins said this morning that the virus was now spreading wider around Auckland, which made it more imperative for people to get vaccinated.

It was going to be increasingly difficult to keep the virus from leaking out of Auckland, he said.

“It’s a question of time before we start to see cases popping up around the country and we need to be ready for that.”

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