Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 13 new cases in community – Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield

Spain is sending 250,000 Covid jabs to New Zealand – enabling this country to keep up record levels of vaccinations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“There are now enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone who wants to be at pace. Now it’s up to us,” Ardern said.

It comes as director general of health Ashley Bloomfield revealed 13 new Covid cases in the community.

The total in the outbreak is 868 – 264 have recovered.

There are 30 unlinked cases and of the new cases, more than half are linked to the current outbreak.

Of yesterday’s cases, six were infectious in the community.

There are 31 people in hospital, including five in ICU or HDU and three requiring ventilation.

More than 17,000 tests yesterday and more than 8000 in Auckland. Bloomfield said that was helping giving the confidence the spread was restrained.

More pop-up testing was in place at supermarkets, to test essential workers. 23 community stations were also in place in Auckland.

Eighty-seven per cent of 38,126 contacts had now been tested.

Staff were continuing to come from around the country to help Auckland’s hospitals, including ICU staff.

On the Middlemore case, day three test results from 124 patients and 29 staff had returned negative results. All were still in isolation.

Ardern said Middlemore Hospital was a stressful environment and staff there had tried to do what they could “as best as possible”.

“We do have clinicians working in a very difficult environment … but we’ll always be willing to look back and see what can be done better.”

Bloomfield said there are clinical staff on site at MIQ facilities, when asked about a Pasifika patient’s struggle to get hospital care.

He said the patient was assessed, and was then transferred to hospital when that level of care was needed.

Bloomfield encouraged businesses to display QR codes so they were accessible to those in wheelchairs.

Close to 1.6 million people scanned in yesterday, the first day of level 2 outside of Auckland.

Ardern said there was solid progress, but urged people to keep getting tested, to follow the rules and keep scanning.

“We need to test, test, test.”

Ardern said, “If you give Delta an inch it will take a mile.”

Vaccine deal

The Government has been negotiating with manufacturer Pfizer and a number of countries to get extra vaccine supplies.

Before lockdown the rollout had intended to vaccinate about 50,000 people a day by this point, but surging demand amid the Delta outbreak this had risen to 80,000 to 90,000 some days, averaging more than 500,000 a week.

With the bulk of supplies arriving next month, the Government risked having to slow the rollout to avoid running out of vaccines, so instead sought a deal with partner countries.

Ardern said new supplies would help maintain and build on the rollout.

An agreement with Spain has been reached for it to supply New Zealand with more than 250,000 doses.

They left Madrid at 1am today, and will arrive in New Zealand tomorrow morning.

“With this supply we will be able to continue our rollout at record levels,” she said.

Ardern has a good relationship with Spain PM Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón and has met him on several occasions around the world, including at the UN leaders meeting in New York in 2019.

Ardern said it was one of two deals – the other was for a larger amount of vaccines and would be announced in the next week.

Ardern said it would help bridge the constraint over the next few weeks.

Ardern thanked the Government of Spain for its help.

The shipment will mean that the supply level will buy at least another week before they might run dry before larger shipments of the Pfizer vaccine are expected in October.

She thanked New Zealanders for going to get vaccines. “What I find really heartening is that 64 per cent of people aged 12 plus have had at least one dose.”

“Auckland is into its fourth long week of a level 4 lockdown. The rest of the country is having to adapt to a new level 2.”

She said the rules were “gruelling” and that was why as many people as possible should be vaccinated.

“I hate the idea of even one preventable death. If everyone who can be vaccinated is vaccinated, you will be saving the life of someone who can’t be.”

She said that included young children, who could not be vaccinated.

She said business owners should be supporting their workforces to get vaccinated, as could sport and church leaders.

She said 121 of the recent cases were under nine years old.

“They can’t be vaccinated so they need us to be. All of us.”

Ardern said NZ expected to receive a total of 1.8 million doses from Pfizer throughout the month of September, in addition to the doses purchased from Spain. “This means we don’t have any plans to slow down the rollout.

“This is the result of excellent collaboration between officials from New Zealand, Spain, the European Commission and Pfizer to secure this agreement. I wish to say thank you to those involved especially President Pedro Sánchez of Spain.”

Can our health system cope?

Ardern said Middlemore Hospital was a stressful environment and staff there had tried to do what they could “as best as possible”.

“We do have clinicians working in a very difficult environment … but we’ll always be willing to look back and see what can be done better.”

Bloomfield said there are clinical staff on site at MIQ facilities, when asked about a Pasifika patient’s struggle to get hospital care.

He said the patient was assessed and was then transferred to hospital when that level of care was needed.

Ardern said returnees going into MIQ had a variety of needs, and in this outbreak it was “very stressful with very little room for error” when patients were heading to MIQ on short notice, having just found out they had the virus.

“We’re working really hard and constantly trying to make improvements to the system.”

Opening up to the world

Ardern said the plan to reopen the borders from the start of next year hadn’t changed, and risk-profiling for each country would continue as previously outlined.

Vaccine status was another factor that would need to be considered, given that not all vaccines are equal.

“We’ve always got to be willing and able to adapt to the variants of concern.”

She said the reopening plans had not dramatically changed.

Delta didn’t necessarily mean that there can’t be more MIQ capacity, though numbers is one way to manage risk.

Bloomfield said people coming back from NSW now needing a pre-departure test was always the intention, and scrapping the pre-departure test in July and August was a period where that requirement was exempted.

Ardern said people had a very short window of time to get on red flights from NSW in July and August. That coupled with the risk profile – roughly 38 cases a day, meaning they might catch Covid-19 while trying to get a pre-departure test – led to the decision to scrap those tests at the time.

Bloomfield said that that risk had increased because there are 1500 cases a day in NSW, but pre-departure testing was only part of a suite of measures to reduce the risk of a passenger bringing Covid-19 into the country.

He said the day zero/one test was a more important way to lower the risk.

He said there was a reduction in cases coming through when pre-departure tests were introduced earlier in the year, but only from UK and USA.

Lockdown cost

There are signs that the lockdown is working but it comes with a cost – Deputy PM and Finance Minister Grant Robertson told the AM Show a week in alert level 4 in Auckland and other restrictions in the rest of the country costs about $1 billion per week.

Businesses outside Auckland were still entitled to the wage subsidy if they could show that Auckland’s alert level 4 or 3 was affecting their income – such as tourism operators.

But Auckland businesses wanted to know if they would also get help when their city moved to alert level 2.

Robertson said they would take “an ongoing look” at how businesses were coping and would continue to adapt.

But New Zealand’s businesses had been open more days in the past 18 months than almost anywhere in the world.

If Cabinet was to decide next week to move Auckland to alert level 3, that would mean another two weeks of the wage subsidy.

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