Covid update: 49 new cases, Northland to move to Level 3

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed there are 49 new community cases of the Delta variant today, all in Auckland.

Dr Bloomfield confirmed the new numbers in a press conference alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today.

The total number of positive Covid-19 cases associated with the current outbreak is now at 736.

Of these, 720 are in Auckland and 16 cases are in Wellington. There have been 11 cases who have recovered. 

Dr Bloomfield said the numbers could still bounce around a bit.

Four cases to report in recent returnees in MIQ facilities.

Eighty-five percent of yesterday's causes were contacts of known cases.

There are 42 cases in hospital, 6 in ICU or high dependency units, three of these are on ventilators.

96 per cent of the contacts in Northland had returned tests - all negative.

Bloomfield said there were just over 6000 swabs taken yesterday. "We need to have higher levels of testing across Tamaki Makaurau to have confidence we have the outbreak under control."

He said anyone with symptoms, or who went to a location of interest or was a contact needed to have tests.

Bloomfield said genomic testing had now made them confident that there was only one case of Delta responsible for the spread into the community. All of the other cases so far linked back to that one

No unexpected results in waste water testing. All testing from Northland had returned negative results.

Bloomfield said wastewater testing had been done in places that covered 95 per cent of the population.

For essential workers crossing the boundary, he asked them to get tested in the next couple of days.

Regardless of whether they had symptoms or were a contact.

That was part of the wider surveillance testing to ensure no cases crossed the border with those commuting workers.

He said there were now 384 applications for personal travel across the borders. About 95 per cent had been declined.

"Even at alert level 3, people should be staying at home and a tight boundary around our level 4 area is required."

He acknowledged that was distressing for some.

There were more than 89,000 doses of the vaccine administered yesterday. Of these, there were 62,218 first doses administered and 27,328 second doses.

Northland to drop to Level 3

On Northland, Ardern said the extension had been needed to get reassurance of no wider transmission - but could confirm Northland would move to level three from 11.59pm tonight.

"Northland will now be treated the same as the rest of the country, with settings reviewed on September 6."

The borders and checkpoints would be set up on SH 1 at Mangawhai Rd.

Ardern said the tight restrictions on who could cross the border was working well - traffic on the southern boundary has been "low and orderly."

The country's alert levels will be reassessed on Monday.

Ardern emphasised the rules for level 3 were tighter this time - especially the use of masks.

She said there had been multiple reports of abuse of bus drivers and other transports. "There is never an excuse to lash out at our essential workers."

Yesterday there were 75 new cases in the community – a leap on the figures from the weekend testing – and Bloomfield warned the numbers could jump around a bit in the next few days.

That was because a number of the thousands of people deemed to be contacts in the outbreak were due for their Day 12 tests.

Thus far, all but one of the new cases have been in Auckland. That one case was in Wellington.

Ardern could also provide an update on how the Government will handle the crunch in vaccine supplies over September, ahead of the large deliveries in October.

The Government has been working on a deal to try to buy or swap vaccinations with another country, as Australia has now done with Singapore and Poland.

If it can not be pulled off, Ardern has said the Government faces having to make a decision on how to ensure existing bookings that are in the system can be honoured, while trying to keep Auckland vaccinations at surge level – an signal they are considering slowing or pushing out new bookings in the regions.

The Government has been tight-lipped on which countries it is dealing with, but there is speculation that it could be Canada. Ardern has a strong relationship with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Canada is a long way through its first rollout so may have spare vaccinations to swap for booster shots later.

The Government is also under pressure over the MIQ system, after deciding to further pause or restrict openings to returning New Zealanders to ensure there was room for new cases in the Delta outbreak.

That included reviewing bookings of large groups, such as the RSE workers from the Pacific Islands due to arrive to work on orchards as the growing season began.

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