Auckland is likely to stay in alert level 4 for a couple more weeks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today, as she announced regions south of the country's largest city will move to level 3.
Ardern said this afternoon Cabinet had decided that the regions south of Auckland will move to alert level 3 at 11.59pm on Tuesday. Auckland and Northland remain in level 4.
She said an update will be provided on Monday and, while Northland and Auckland stay in level 4 for now, that doesn't mean they will be treated in the same way in the future.
However, she said Auckland would likely remain in level 4 for another two weeks.
Regions south of Auckland would remain in level 4 until Wednesday, partly in response to continued traces of Covid-19 in wastewater in Christchurch.
The move received a mixed response, with some welcoming the caution, others hoping they would move to level 2 in time for the weekend, and leaders saying they want an indication on when they would move down alert levels.
Based on that number, Ardern said New Zealand "may be seeing the beginning of a plateau of cases", but warned: "caution is still required.".
It was clear from the outbreak that Delta was more infectious and moved more quickly, she said.
"Of the cases reported yesterday, roughly half were household contacts. Unfortunately we know from Australia that household members are almost universally becoming infected with Covid-19, that means you can expect our numbers to continue for some time as household contacts continue to test positive."
Public health units were observing very fast infection times with Delta, but it did not change the fact the strategy right now was elimination and "every New Zealander can play their part in that", Ardern said.
"Lockdown is making a difference.
"We know Covid's not going away quickly, but our strategy can evolve."
Northland to remain in level 4 after rest home worker tests positive
Northland would remain in level 4 along with Auckland for now because a person who works in a dementia unit at a rest home near Warkworth tested positive, and the government was also concerned about Aucklanders heading north after lockdown was announced, Ardern said.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed today a person who is employed by Amberlea Home and Hospital Care Facility in Algie's Bay worked two shifts while unknowingly infectious.
They are fully vaccinated and adhered to strict controls, including PPE.
The rest home also has another site further north, with staff moving between the two locations, Ardern said. That was part of the reason behind the decision to keep Northland in alert level 4.
Many positive cases not yet in MIQ
There has been criticism of the delay in moving positive community cases into Managed Isolation and Quaratine (MIQ).
There are now 347 people with Covid-19 linked to the community outbreak, and another 37 cases at the border.
The Ministry of Health website says 145 of those infected are in managed facilities and 63 are self-isolating at home. More than 150 cases are listed as "other".
Ardern said the delays for people being moved into quarantine is because of the need for strong public health measures during transport to the quarantine facility.
"The very unfortunate piece of information that has been provided to me is that family members are giving it to one another before they're symptomatic ... I don't believe it's posing any greater risk than has already been posed over the days prior."
Ardern said there were 274 rooms designated specifically for quarantine across the country, 285 also available for close contacts, and more than 200 more rooms were being brought on board today with the Novotel Hotel in Ellerslie now operating as an MIQ facility.
Pasifika Futures chief executive Debbie Sorensen said the delays have caused problems for families already under pressure and authorities should have increased capacity much earlier.
Not enough vaccines to include school-aged children
Ardern held up a graph at her press conference, showing how New Zealand's vaccination rates have skyrocketed compared to rates over time in other countries like the US and Canada.
"You know that I love to hold up a good graph - just for the memes. This black line is New Zealand plotted against Australia, Canada, the US and the UK."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint that, while our vaccination rates have ramped up recently, there would not be enough to cover everyone if children aged under 12 were approved.
"That's the big thing that's stopping us scaling up even further with vaccine delivery," he said.
He was on the phone to Pfizer a couple of days ago pushing to get more vaccine arriving sooner.
Meanwhile, New Zealanders are now going to be surveyed to help track reactions to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
A text message will be sent from the Ministry of Health to about 10 percent of randomly selected people who get the vaccine.
University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said they will be looking for patterns of unexpected reaction.
It was important to track reactions in different populations but there are no concerns that serious reactions are going undetected, she said.
Mass vaccination event in Taranaki gets off to good start
A total of 2500 essential workers and their whānau were vaccinated at a pop-up mass clinic in Taranaki today.
Taranaki District Health Board is hoping 7000 people will be vaccinated by the end of the weekend. It has another clinic in New Plymouth tomorrow and one in Hāwera on Sunday.
In a Facebook post, the DHB thanked everyone who attended and its vaccination team for pumping through 300 people an hour.
Katja Eager had brought her sons along to get their shots.
"My husband works here in the port, Port Taranaki, and both of us have received both shots already and now it's time to vaccinate the children."
She was happy with the vaccine rollout.
"Yeah I would think so. Yes I am. I feel very grateful."
Police to step up presence, enforcement
Police say they will step up their visibility and enforcement of level 4 restrictions in coming days. There will also be more road patrols.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a statement they will have high visibility in the community where people access essential services, and on the roads to deter non-essential travel.
"People can expect that police will intensify our enforcement of the level 4 restrictions, and more people will be stopped and questioned about their reason for moving away from home."
Police are overall happy with the level of compliance seen from drivers, but there have been some interesting excuses from people breaching the rules, Coster said.
These include drivers saying they needed to deliver an off-road vehicle, some rare goose eggs and puppy food.
As at 5pm yesterday evening, police have issued 1213 infringements nationwide - the majority for people undertaking non-essential movement outside their home, Coster said.
Police have also received 10,239 105-online breach notifications. Of these, 6196 were about a gathering, 3075 were about a business, and 968 were about a person.
Since level 4 was put in place, 79 people have been charged with a total of 85 offences.
"These arrests are primarily the result of protest activity in the first few days of alert level 4, and other intentional behaviour in breach of the restrictions," Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.
In addition, 250 warnings were issued.