Areas south of Auckland woke up this morning to an easing of lockdown restrictions, with an Alert Level 3 response allowing businesses limited trade and the public varying degrees of freedom.
But new cases from the Covid-19 community in New Zealand have risen from 49 yesterday to 75 today, underscoring warnings from health experts that the battle against the Delta variant is far from over.
One of the cases was in Wellington, an asymptomatic family contact who had been isolated. The other cases were in Auckland.
Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there was no cause for alarm and modeling showed the lockdown continued to break the chains of transmission. Bloomfield said 75% of new cases created no exposure event.
About 40 supermarkets across Auckland have been designated as places of interest today, but they were considered “low risk”. These were added as an added precaution, the health ministry said.
It was revealed today that two Auckland hospitals have undertaken emergency construction work to create more zero pressure chambers for Covid-19 patients. Auckland City Hospital and Middlemore Hospital have been stretched with the Auckland Delta outbreak, with patient rooms at or near full capacity.
Vaccinations are accelerating
Immunization efforts across the country were in full swing today.
Nearly 70% of the eligible population have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine or have booked to have one, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told media this afternoon.
About 1.9 million future vaccines were in the reservation system, with 68% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over and 83% of people over 40 having been vaccinated or booked for at least one injection.
About half of the eligible population has now received a dose of the vaccine.
Hipkins said the government was trying to increase vaccine supply and the existing supply would now be concentrated in Auckland. Bloomfield said earlier Morning report If daily vaccine supplies could not match current high demand, areas of deployment could be slowed down to prioritize Auckland.
The announcement was greeted by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
In a statement from Auckland City Council today, Goff urged people to take their children to get vaccinated.
“As of today, everyone in New Zealand over the age of 12 is eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination,” he said.
“The latest community epidemic shows that people of all ages, including young people, are affected, and the best protection against the disease and its spread is to get vaccinated,” he said.
“Over 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have now been administered in Auckland and the city has one of the highest per capita vaccination rates in the country.”
Hospitals are looking for intensive care nurses
Auckland hospitals have asked other DHBs to send nurses to intensive care to increase the number, with dozens of Covid-19 patients in hospitals – eight in intensive care and three on ventilators, last night.
Bloomfield said today that other nurses and health assistants are also invited to help in Auckland.
Drive-thru vaccination in Marae continued success
Bloomfield said today that vaccination rates among Maori and Pacific populations have doubled in recent weeks.
His claim was confirmed by cars full of people, who lined up at Auckland’s first drive-thru vaccination site in a marae – a move that is helping to raise rates among Maori.
With 35 employees at Papakura Marae, officials planned to vaccinate 500 people a day.
Papakura Marae chief executive Tony Kake said such vaccination sites were essential because they were places Maori knew and trusted.
“We really want to encourage our Maori whanau to come to one of the vaccination centers, not only in Papakura Marae but all over the country,” he said.
Changes to the MIQ reservation system
Cross-border MIQ requests were suspended today to help authorities safely house the growing number of people with Covid-19.
MIQ vouchers for people wishing to return from abroad will not be available for a few weeks. Emergency allowances were still being processed.
The fairness of the reservation system had been questioned for several months. Hipkins told media today that once it gets back up and running, changes will be made with the introduction of a new pilot system.
He said that when a large number of places were available, they would be advertised. He said that when a room is released, there will be a “virtual lobby”.
“The lobby means that people who enter the site within a specified window of time all have an equal chance to drop in to try and secure a room. Entry to the site will be random, eliminating the need to be the most fast, ”the MIQ website said today.
Monitored alert level borders
Police found good compliance at the Auckland border, although a small number of people were turned away by police.
More than 3,300 companies have received exemptions to cross the border, covering 23,500 employees.
Police said their five checkpoints south of Auckland were functioning well, with limited problems.
Inspector Kay Lane said the number of vehicles was quite low and most people had the right documents ready to show officers.
Police said, however, that two people left Auckland without exemption on Monday – one in Wellington and one in Dunedin.
Commissioner Andrew Coster said both people had received violation notices – and that police had worked with public health officials to manage the risk.
As of 5 p.m. yesterday, officers had issued more than 2,700 lockdown violation notices nationwide, he said.
In addition, 139 people have been charged with offenses including breaching the lockdown, breaking health laws and assaulting or threatening police.
Meanwhile, Maori Development Minister Willie Jackson told a select committee of Parliament he was “a fan” of iwi checkpoints at regional borders.
Jackson said he understood why people wanted to set up community checkpoints, but also appreciated that they were contentious.
Jackson said he spoke to Deputy Police Commissioner Walley Haumaha about ways to give those who wanted to set up checkpoints a little slack.
Help with domestic violence
Police urged anyone experiencing abuse or violence to seek help.
In the first week of Alert Level 4, the number of domestic violence incidents reported to police increased 3.9%, according to preliminary data released today. In the second week, it increased 6.2 percent.
“As we enter the third week of alert level restrictions, police are urging anyone who has suffered abuse or violence to seek help,” Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.
“Although there has been a slight increase, reports of family injury fluctuate due to a range of external factors and the data remains within the normal range,” he added.
“If you feel scared, threatened or in danger, call us on 111.
“If you can’t call, leave your bubble and ask a neighbor or a passer-by to call you.
“We also urge anyone with concerns about a loved one or friend to call us on their behalf – you may save their life.”
Funeral home viewing changes
As part of an Alert Level 4 change, grieving families were allowed to bid farewell to loved ones at funeral homes starting today.
Whānau could visit registered funeral homes during Alert Level 4, but only if they were in the same bubble.
The Association of Funeral Directors has welcomed the government’s response after making the proposal last week.