14 new cases, new MIQ lobby system

A new online system to help overseas Kiwis secure a room in managed isolation and quarantine facilities is to be unveiled today.

The Ministry of Health confirmed there are 14 new community cases to report today.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield said they were all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the outbreak to 983.

"It's clear all our new cases are linked to existing cases."

Three of yesterday's cases were infectious in the community.

There was an increasing in testing in Auckland with over 10,000 tests undertaken.

Throughout the country there was a total more than 15,000 tests administered.

Vaccine rollout

Yesterday there were  62,155 vaccine doses given, 39,437 of these were first doses and 22,718 were second doses.

Covid Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that 250,000 doses from Denmark had touched down at Auckland Airport just over an hour ago.

More than 70 per cent of the eligible population have had their first vaccine dose, and 36 per cent have had the second dose, Hipkins said.

But with Māori the figures were 48 per cent and 23 per cent.

For those aged 65-plus, the numbers are 90 per cent and 65 per cent.

Hipkins said the main age group where "a lot of work" was needed to be done to boost vaccine numbers was with those under 40.

The first vaccination buses are being launched tomorrow, Hipkins said. They will be taken to areas where vaccine rates are low.

We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get vaccinated, particularly in Auckland.

Expectant mums urged to get jab

During his comments, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield gave a shout out to midwives, particularly those in Auckland.

He also took the opportunity to remind anyone expecting a baby to get vaccinated. Some unvaccinated pregnant women had arrived at hospital with Covid, and quite unwell as a result of the virus.

"It's now very clear from experience globally and our experience here with a large number of pregnant people now vaccinated there are no additional safety concerns with getting the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine. It's safe at any stage of pregnancy, and vaccinating during pregnancy also helps protect your baby, as there is evidence that infants can get antibodies to the virus through cord blood and then once they are born, through breast milk."

People wanting to cross the Auckland region boundary are now required to prove they have a negative Covid test in the last seven days.

A worker at an MIQ hotel has tested positive for the virus and there is a possible community link, Dr Bloomfield said.

"This is an infectious virus that will causes serious ongoing problems.

"It has affected hundreds of people in Auckland. The vaccine is highly protective against symptomatic infection and getting very unwell and dying from this infection.

"We've got a very good, very safe vaccine."

Vitamin C will not cut it, he said.

Bloomfield said there was huge support among doctors for the nation's vaccine program with a petition now circulating among doctors to show their support.

He said New Zealand had a fast approval process and was keeping up to date on the latest and most effective treatments for Covid 19.

He said Covid had two main adverse effects, the first was the virus' attack on the body and also its ability to generate an adverse immune response.

Bloomfield said all treatments of Covid complement rather than replace vaccines.

New MIQ virtual lobby system

The local pressure on out MIQ system has started to ease, Hipkins said.

The pause in booking MIQ will be lifted from Monday, he said.

The first 3000 rooms will be available from Monday, with an extra 4000 each fortnight, Hipkins said.

The way people apply for the rooms will change.

The Government expects to make a decision on the trans-Tasman travel in the next week, Hipkins said.

When that decision was made, the Government would also signal the availability of red flights coming from Australia.

In a press release Joint Head of MIQ Megan Main said the lobby system is being tried out to make booking more transparent and will create a more level playing field for people trying to access the booking site.

“We operate in a very complex environment and Delta changes everything. We need to balance a lot of competing demands – such as reducing the risk of Covid entering the community, allowing New Zealanders to travel home, and supporting our economy.

“We know that the current environment is difficult, where demand for MIQ rooms is significantly greater than the number of rooms available.

"I know people spend many hours in front of their computers constantly refreshing in the hopes of securing a voucher. I know this lack of certainty has been really challenging for people.

"The lobby means we can let people know in advance when room releases are happening.

“The way it works is that people can enter the lobby one hour prior to the room release – so from 8am (local time) September 20. This is not a first-in, first-served model. It doesn’t matter when people arrive in the lobby in that 1 hour period, everyone has an equal chance of getting through to try to secure a room. Once the room release starts, all of the people in the lobby will be automatically moved into a queue – this will be randomised, removing the need to be the fastest.

“There is no limit on how many people can wait in the lobby and there is no need to keep refreshing the website anymore. People will be able to see their place in the queue. To enter the lobby, people will need to enter a passport number – this must match a passport number of someone who is travelling, which is entered in the Managed Isolation Allocation System website (it must be the same passport number which will be on the MIQ voucher).

“It’s important that people know their preferred flight route and select the correct date for arrival. We don’t want people to just grab any date. Flights from most locations around the world only arrive on particular days so people need to make sure they’re booking an MIQ date that aligns with the arrival date of a flight from their location. People need to look at the flight checker on the website before the lobby opens, and select the appropriate date for arrival.

“For people wanting to travel from Australia, this voucher release will not include flights from Australia, which means you cannot participate this time. However, we’re planning another voucher release in September. We’ll be able to confirm that when a decision is made on the Trans-Tasman Bubble – which the Government expects to be in a position to announce next week.

“Although this new feature should improve user experience, it is not a silver bullet - it will not fix the issue of supply and demand. Unfortunately, in periods of high demand, a lot of people will miss out on securing a room."

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