Snap government response to one community case of Covid-19
Wellington, August 17, 2021
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an alert-level 4 lockdown starting at 11.59 pm tonight (Tuesday, August 17, 2021).
She briefed the media with Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield following a Cabinet meeting in Wellington.
The Health Ministry said that a link between the case and the border or managed isolation had not been established. Health officials have been interviewing the case so that contacts could be traced and any locations of interest identified.
They have released five locations of interest in the Coromandel, published on the Ministry of Health website.
Going hard and early
In announcing the government’s decision, Ms Ardern said going hard and early had worked before and that the Delta variant was harder to combat.
Dr Bloomfield said that they were assuming it is the Delta variant.
The man, a 58-year-old male from Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore, lives with his wife.
She was tested yesterday (August 16, 2021) and returned a negative test.
Dr Bloomfield thanked the person who tested positive for going for a test and emphasised that although he was not vaccinated, he had booked to get his jabs.
He said that the couple visited Coromandel last week, Bloomfield said.
“They returned on 15 August. The man is a frequent user of the Covid-19 Tracer App. Locations of interest have been identified in both Coromandel and Auckland,” he said.
Five locations of interest in Coromandel
The contact-tracing locations of interest include Star and Garter Hotel, Umu Cafe, BP Gas Station on Tiki Rd and Taras Beads. The man visited them between August 13 and August 15, 2021. Further locations between Coromandel and Auckland are likely to be identified.
Dr Bloomfield said that he wanted to assure New Zealanders that health officials acted swiftly and are taking immediate actions.
There will be additional testing centres in Auckland tomorrow (August 18, 2021) and all District Health Boards will ensure that there is efficient testing capacity.
Last wastewater testing on North Shore on 11 August has returned negative results.
“This case was identified in Auckland but it is a national issue,” Bloomfield said.
Delta Variant, a game-changer
Ms Ardern said that it was not a matter of if but when the variant arrived in the community.
“I want to assure New Zealand that we have planned for that eventuality and that we will now be putting in place that plans to contain and stamp out Covid-19 once again. Going hard and early has worked for us before, while we know that Delta is a more dangerous enemy to combat, the same actions that overcame the virus last year can be applied to beat it again,” she said.
New Zealand was one of the last countries to experience a case of Delta, she said.
“It is a “game-changer” and the country only had one chance to get on top of it. The Level Four lockdown will be for three days for all of New Zealand but seven days for Auckland Coromandel. We have made decisions on the basis it is better to start high then go down levels. We have seen the consequences of not acting quickly enough,” Ms Ardern said.
Appeal to New Zealanders
She said that the underlying principle of Level 4 was to reduce contact to a bare minimum.
“Beating Delta means lifting our game. I ask New Zealanders to please follow the rules of the letter. People must stay at home in level 4, only leaving for essential services. And if you undertake these activities, please wear a mask when you leave your house. Stay 2 metres away from anyone you pass, do not congregate and do not stop to talk to your neighbours. We know from evidence overseas, that the Delta Variant can spread just by walking past someone. If you are completely isolated or live alone, remember that you can join a bubble with one other person…it must just be one other person though,” she said.
Ms Ardern warned that vaccinated people should also follow the rules like everyone.
Dr Bloomfield echoed her warning and said even with high vaccination rates, the country public health measures would be in place.
“Health officials will be looking at what extra protocols might need to be put in place before the vaccination campaign resumes. It is reassuring that wastewater testing in Auckland last week did not show any signs of Covid-19, which indicated infection is not widespread. The most important thing is to stop the outbreak, which requires stopping people’s movement,” he said.
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