Covid 19 coronavirus: No new community cases today but no chance of early end to lock down

A Covid-19 expert says it’s an excellent sign that none of the tests taken in the community had come back positive this week.

But even with no new community cases for four straight daysthere is no chance the level 3 restrictions imposed on Auckland will be eased early.

Meanwhile Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said 11 students from Papatoetoe High School still needed to get a second test.

Eight students would have visits from a mobile testing unit today.

Two had declined tests, the minister said.

It was important to get to the last remaining students before making any decision on whether Auckland would change alert levels, he said.

Covid-19 data modelling expertShaun Hendy this morning told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking that he believed if there were no new community cases today and tomorrow the Government would likely reduce alert levels.

The latest seven-day lockdown was the Government making absolutely sure to shut it down with confidence.

“The one thing we know with this B.1.1.7 variant, you really don’t want to let it get out of control. It spreads more rapidly and does take a lot of work to control it so my calculus is these shorter, sharper lockdowns to bring these new variants under control is probably worth it in the long run,” said Hendy.

He said it was a super-spreading virus so although four out of five people who get infected would only affect household or very close contacts, the fifth person would spread it far and wide.

“It was a good sign yesterday that none of the very large number of tests processed on Tuesday came back positive,” Hendytold Hosking.

“That’s an excellent sign and we’ll be hoping we see the same thing today.”

He said we were proving to be “lucky” in this latest outbreak.

There were a number of potential exposures to a positive case last week and so far it appeared there had been no infections as a result.

Although Hendy was optimistic about an end to lockdown Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare this morning shut that idea down.

He said it would be a positive sign if there were no cases today – but people would have to wait until Cabinet meets on Friday for any decision on changes to alert levels across the country.

Henare told Newshub: “The Prime Minister has made it clear we’re in this for seven days.”

Henare confirmed there had been no new cases overnight.

He urged people to remain vigilant around the rules, asking them to stay home to stop the virus – and reminding them that ifthey wanted to go to church this weekend they should dial in via zoom.

“Please stay home in Auckland,” he pleaded.

He confirmed that close to 10,000 people had received the vaccine in New Zealand so far and he believed the country was on track to complete its biggest vaccine rollout.

Hendy said one of the major lessons from this outbreak centred on the difficulties surrounding contact tracing in a school community.

“It’s very different to a workplace, for example, or even a retail environment,” he explained.

“You’ve got a lot of casual encounters, you’ve got kids changing places and classrooms. I think that actually presents a really big challenge for contact tracing.

“I think if we have a situation like this at a school or a university in future we’re just going to have to be that much better at our game.”

Meanwhile Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault says the school – at the centre of the latest cluster -is mostly getting positive feedback but there had been negative comments on social media.

He had passed one abusive email to police.

Couillault said come tomorrow everyone at his school would have either been tested twice or spent a fortnight in self-isolation.

“We’re getting some emails – I got a few yesterday – things like ‘sort your lot out, your kids are a disaster, your school’s, you’re a joke’,all that sort of stuff that you can quite easily say when you’re anonymous and behind a keyboard,” said Couillault.

“I did pass one on to the police because there was a bit of vitriol in it with words that would have offended my mother,” he said.

“My mother’s not easily offended I might add.”

But police told him there was not much they could do as there was not a tangible threat, he said.

However, they did follow it up to make sure it wasn’t the start of anything more sinister, he said.

Couillault said he was looking forward to the alert level being lowered and school resuming.

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