Auckland travel rules relaxed for some, more MIQ rooms

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced new rules for people needing to cross the  Auckland boundary.

Ardern and Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield gave the latest Covid-19 case numbers this afternoon.

Auckland is at the centre of the Delta outbreak and recently moved down into alert level 3 from alert level 4 lockdown.

Ardern said that from 11.50pm tonight, rules around leaving Auckland will be relaxed as people can delay moving house, starting a new job or tertiary education for only so long.

People will be able to travel from Auckland into a level 2 environment if they:

  • are relocating permanently,
  • have shared caregiving arrangements and
  • are returning from alert level 3 to an alert level 2 environment.

People need a test 72 hours before departure.

Those with shared caregivers need a test within seven days of each crossing of the Auckland border. People need to carry proof of reason to travel and must not be sick.

Students should get in touch with their tertiary accommodation provider beforehand.

Ardern says the situation will require ongoing monitoring.

Thousands of extra MIQ rooms

Ardern revealed that an extra 3800 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) rooms will be released at tonight's online booking opportunity from 6pm.

These would be MIQ spots available for October, November and December.

More than 12,000 people could return for Christmas, with more rooms becoming available in coming weeks, she said.

"The reason we stagger those releases is because some people may have urgent needs that only arise say, in October and November and it allows those people to get equal access if those needs arise a little closer to the time."

PM urges vaccination, aware of Tamaki protest plan

Ardern noted that it was six weeks to the day since the Delta variant of Covid was first reported in Auckland and 2.5 million vaccinations had been given since then. But it was timely for many there to get their second dose, she said.

She acknowledged it was getting harder to lift Auckland's vaccination rate, but the Government's priority was for Kiwis to have the best summer possible - which means working very hard to get the vaccine rates up.

Anything else added to the mix too soon could risk summer, she said.

Vaccination rates did not impact on alert level changes, Ardern said, but it impacted on the country's future.

"It is still critical for us transitioning away from lockdowns," she said.

Requiring vaccination certificates would be inappropriate for essential services such as healthcare and supermarkets, Ardern said. She was not "willing to concede" that there will be low vaccination rates among Maori.

The Prime Minister said she was aware that Destiny Church pastor Brian Tamaki was planning anti-lockdown protests and had met with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.

She said she had confidence in police bosses using the "right judgment".

"No one wants a situation where people who regularly engage in the community, no one wants them separated longer than they need to be. No one likes lockdowns."

She said the Government is "desperate" to get rid of these restrictions, and as soon as they can remove them, they will.

Bloomfield said he was confident police will take the right approach to any organised protests.

Eight new community cases 

There are eight Covid cases in the community to report today, all in Auckland.

There is one unlinked case today, Bloomfield said: a person who presented at Waitakere Hospital and five staff members have been stood down. Eight patients are being treated as contacts.

Of the 14 people currently in hospital with Covid, three people are in ICU or a high dependency unit.

Positive wastewater result in Tauranga 

A positive wastewater test result was recorded in Tauranga on September 23. Further samples taken from wider nearby area and results expected on Thursday,  Bloomfield said.

Testing centres in the region will be open for extended hours today, and more pop-up clinics open tomorrow.

A request has been made for permitted workers over the next two weeks - regardless of symptoms - to get two tests at least five days apart - especially in construction, hospitality and retail sectors.

Any workers travelling from Auckland to Tauranga should check they are up to date with testing.

Bay of Plenty DHB chief executive Peter Bonneville said residents should not to panic, as details were scant. He advised people to social distance, wear masks, scan and get a test if they had Covid symptoms.

- NZ Herald and RNZ

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