Covid 19 coronavirus community case: NZ in alert level 4 lockdown, Auckland, Coromandel for 7 days, test results today for infected Devonport man

COVID COMMUNITY CASE LATEST
* Level-4 lockdown begins – what you can and can’t do
* 23 ‘exposure events’ – the locations of interest released so far in Auckland, Coromandel, Thames
* ’80-90′ people in bar on nights Auckland man visited
* Derek Cheng: Why we should all be worried, and the signs of optimism to look for today
* Richard Prebble: What worked last year may not work against Delta

Test results expected early this morning will reveal whether a Devonport man’s case of Covid-19 is the Delta virus, and, critically, whether it is linked to a case at the border or in MIQ.

The results will be critical in determining how the 58-year-old man got Covid-19 after health officials were unable to identify any obvious links to the border.

Auckland and Coromandel have gone into level 4 lockdown for seven days – and the rest of the country for three days – following a community Covid-19 case in New Zealand’s biggest city.

It is the first full lockdown in more than a year, and has seen a “return of the bubble”, limited travel, a 48-hour amnesty for people to return to their homes, and a 48-hour pause on vaccinations.

The Devonport man, 58, returned a positive test on Tuesday, and is believed to have been infectious since August 12. He and his wife travelled to Coromandel township on Friday and stayed for the weekend, before the man developed symptoms and on Monday sought a test.

There are 23 “exposure events” linked to the man -15 have so far been released as locations of interest – meaning they require further contact tracing. These locations include 12 in the Coromandel, 2 in Auckland and 1 in Mangatarata.

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His wife had been fully vaccinated and returned a negative test. The man himself was eligible to be vaccinated, but had issues booking an appointment through the online system.

Both had been self-isolating at home but were being transferred to Jet Park quarantine facility.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was no known link to the border or any other cases thus far which, coupled with an assumption he had the highly-infectious Delta variant, was behind the decision to plunge the country back into full lockdown for the first time in more than a year.

Every case of Covid-19 picked up at the border over the past three weeks had been Delta.

New Zealand had seen what had occurred around the world in outbreaks of this new variant, which was twice as infectious and led to higher rates of hospitalisations and deaths, particularly across the Tasman in New South Wales, Ardern said.

Delta was a “game-changer” and there needed to be a rapid response to stop the spread.

“We only get one chance. One of the worst things about Covid-19 is the absolute uncertainty it creates, but we know this strategy works, and we know life will get easier. We just need to keep going.”

The three-day nationwide lockdown was to get various test results, identify contacts and the spread, and find any undetected cases. Auckland and Coromandel would most likely be in lockdown for seven days due to the proximity of the case, Ardern said.

Level 4 means schools and all education centres will be closed. Non-essential workers need to stay home, and everybody needs to keep to their “bubbles”.

People should only leave their homes to buy essential items, and for exercise in their immediate neighbourhoods.

Masks were not mandatory, but Ardern said people were strongly encouraged to wear them at all times outside their bubbles and maintain at least a two-metre distance with others.

Delta could be spread, as in Sydney, by people simply passing each other in the street.

An announcement on mandatory mask measures was expected within 24 hours, Ardern said.

There would be a 48-hour period during which people could return to their homes, she said.

For up to 48 hours vaccinations would also be paused. This was to prepare the sites to be able to carry them out safely, Ardern said.

There were 23 locations of interest identified – 13 in the Coromandel Peninsula and 10 in Auckland.

The Government has not released the number of contacts, of which there are potentially hundreds.

About 70-80 people alone were in Star and Garter Bar in Coromandel township on each night the man visited over the weekend – including to watch the All Blacks game on Saturday.

Manager Mariya Kravchenko said the hotel closed just before 6pm yesterday, saying staff had been told the follow the guidelines and get a Covid test.

National Party leader Judith Collins said she supported the quick move to lockdown given the transmissibility of the Delta variant.

“It is better to act now to stamp out the spread of Covid-19 than to take half measures which do not work and result in it taking longer to shut down the spread.”

Both Collins and Act leader David Seymour said it was crucial vaccinations began again as soon as possible, given the low level of coverage in New Zealand and the harm Delta had done in countries with even fairly high levels of vaccination.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the Government had made the right decision but understood it would be hard on the community and businesses.

“To successfully contain the spread of the virus everyone has to play their part and follow the rules.

“We have a collective responsibility to each other, and it is unacceptable for anyone out of selfish reasons to put themselves, their families and their communities at risk.”

Council facilities such as libraries, leisure centres and pools, the museum, zoo, halls, playgrounds and public toilets would be closed.

Auckland Transport would continue its core services for essential workers, but passengers needed to socially distance and wear masks.

Other essential council services would continue.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said a week-long level 4 lockdown had been estimated to cost the economy $1.4b.

The wage subsidy support had been triggered given the lockdown would last seven days. Businesses that met the criteria could apply from Friday.

The resurgence support scheme was also available.

Following news of the lockdown, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) called off a planned strike over pay and conditions for Thursday, saying people’s health and wellbeing had to “remain our number one priority”.

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