Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Case numbers expected to be just over 50; Cabinet decision on Auckland north hours away; Navy MIQ workers await test results

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The number of total Covid cases today is expected to be just over 50 – and all in Auckland, the Herald understands.

The drop in cases from the weekend – when over 80 new cases were recorded on both Saturday and Sunday – is a welcome sign as Cabinet prepares to meet to confirm the extension of level 4 for Auckland and Northland from 11.59pm Tuesday.

Most of the new cases will be from tests on Saturday, when 23,000 people were swabbed for Covid-19. That was lower than the 36,000 tests on Thursday and 37,000 on Friday.

Today’s new cases bring the total number in the Delta outbreak to more than 560.

The Ministry of Health is due to release more details on today’s cases at 1pm before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holds a press conference at 4pm to confirm New Zealand’s alert levels.

It is expected Northland will remain at level 4 for at least another week and Auckland potentially for two more weeks. The rest of the country moves to level 3 from Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health has been approached for comment on today’s case numbers.

Meanwhile the latest Covid outbreak location of interest is a West Auckland fruit and vegetable shop which had three exposure events in as many days.

A Covid positive case was at the Tasi Market shop in Massey three times last week – on Thursday, Friday and the latest visit on Saturday.

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Earlier today it emerged that Navy personnel manning MIQ facilities across Auckland are isolating after Covid was detected in wastewater near their barracks, while an expert warns Delta needs a new rulebook for living and working indoors.

Cabinet is just hours away from announcing how long the top of the country will remain in lockdown as the virus continues to infect more people every day. It’s expected Auckland will stay in Alert Level 4 lockdown for a further fortnight, while Northland remains at the heightened level for one more week.The decision will be announced at 4pm.

As New Zealand enters day 13 of lockdown it’s emerged that Defence personnel staying at the Auckland naval barracks at Narrowneck on Auckland’s North Shore are self-isolating after Covid-19 fragments were detected in the wastewater last Monday.

The site was now in full lockdown with 62 junior officers and ratings undergoing swabs. So far 54 had come back negative with results of eight pending.

The Naval Base and the Narrow Neck Accommodation and Training facility is in the same suburb as the first case that sparked the nationwide lockdown on August 17.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesman said the positive result was detectedlast Wednesday after samples were taken on Monday.

The facility was put into lockdown to restrict access to and from it.

All personnel at Narrow Neck had been isolating and tested for Covid-19 on the advice of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, said the spokesperson.

They remain in isolation.

Additional personnel on reserve standby to replace personnel who were rostered to start a MIQF duty had been called in to cover for the isolating staff, said the spokesperson.

It comes as police confirmed a non-sworn staff member at their Auckland headquarters had tested positive for Covid-19.

The person, who works in a non-sworn role at Harlech House in Otahuhu, had been to work for one shift several days after being exposed to a family member who was infectious.

There are now 511 people with infections in the current outbreak with 496 in Auckland and 15 in Wellington. Over the weekend 82 new cases were added on Saturday, and 83 on Sunday.

Cabinet is meeting today to discuss the future of Auckland’s and Northland’s lockdown after an announcement last week the rest of the country would shift down alert levels from Wednesday.

Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall today said there were”positive signs” in the Covid response but “mystery cases” still posed a challenge.

She said the levelling out of new cases, along with half being household contacts, was a sign of optimism.

All of those are positive signs that level four is working,” Verrall told TVNZ’s Breakfast.

However she remained concerned about a group of 53 mystery cases that appeared unlinked.

Health authorities were working to understand the chains of infection.

Covid modeller Professor Shaun Hendy said if the mystery cases couldn’t be connected to any known cluster then it would be a concern.

However, at this stage it appeared to be a lag in getting information to Wellington rather than an unsettling development in the outbreak.

On the eve of much of New Zealand heading down to Alert Level 3 Hendy called for a rethink on the way we deal with the Delta variant.

“Looking at Delta it is more transmissable and looking at rules we’ve had in place of how to operate essential services, businesses, organisations that are open during level four maybe need to be tightened,” said Hendy.

“The two metre rule looks to be obsolete with Delta – it’s much more about ventilation and mask use – so we may see further tightening of those rules just with that.

University of Canterbury Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank told RNZ that if lockdown proved to be effective, it was possible numbers could come down to 10 a day by the “latter part” of September.

Plank said it did appear as though the Delta outbreak was plateauing but it should become clearer over the next 48 hours. It was “taking a bit longer to get this outbreak under control than other outbreaks”.

“The week ahead is really the crunch week in terms of whether we start to see the numbers come down.”

Verrall also revealed health officials were now looking at the possibility and research surrounding offering people two different vaccine jabs.

She confirmed to NewstalkZB’s Mike Hosking that the Government was looking into latest results that showed people were better protected when they got two different vaccine shots.

“We have asked officials to look at that,” she said.

“We have a portfolio that includes AstraZeneca. So we do have that option should we need to use it in combination with Pfizer after the two-dose series that everyone’s got.”

The Herald revealed yesterday that the Government may “borrow” vaccines from overseas early in order to avoid shortages – with the possibility some might be brands other than Pfizer.

Meanwhile locations of interest across the country continue to decline as the Ministry of Health remove older exposure sites. There are now 444 events involving 342 locations.

The earliest location of interest is Spark Arena from August 12.


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