No new cases overnight but lockdown wait goes on

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ
Peeni Henare. Photo: RNZ
New Zealand will have to stay at least three more days in current alert levels, despite another night of zero cases, a senior Government minister says.

Minister Peeni Henare says New Zealanders will need to wait until after tomorrow's Cabinet meeting before finding out if Auckland will drop out of level 3 and the rest of New Zealand out of level 2 from 6am on Sunday.

He revealed there were no new Covid cases in the community overnight.

Henare said if it was confirmed there were zero community transmission cases later today, that was a positive sign - but it wouldn't mean the lockdown would end early.

"The Prime Minister has made it clear we're in this for seven days," Henare told Newshub.

Meanwhile, the high school at the centre of the cluster that has sent New Zealand's biggest city into two separate lockdowns has been subjected to abuse - including one email so bad, it had been referred to police.

Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault says while the school was mostly receiving positive feedback there had been negative feedback on social media.

He had also passed one abusive email to police.

Papatoetoe High School. Photo: NZ Herald
Papatoetoe High School. Photo: NZ Herald
Couillault told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking today that come tomorrow everyone at his school would have either been tested twice or spent a fortnight in self-isolation.

"We're getting some emails - I got a few yesterday - things like 'sort your lot out, your kids are a disaster, your school's a joke, you're a joke', all that sort of stuff that you can quite easily say when you're anonymous and behind a keyboard," said Couillault.

"I did pass one on to the police because there was a bit of vitriol in it with words that would have offended my mother," he said. "My mother's not easily offended, I might add."

Police told him there was not much they could do as there was not a tangible threat, he said.

However, they did follow it up to make sure it wasn't anything more sinister.

Couillault said he was looking forward to the alert level being lowered and school resuming as normal.

Meanwhile, Henare said close to 10,000 people had received the vaccine so far, and he believed the country was on track to complete the country's ever biggest vaccine programme.

Henare said there was "quite a long queue" to train up those to carry out the vaccinations, the training for which was an online model.

He said he was confident that the country would have enough people qualified to carry out the country's general rollout later this year.

Covid-19 data modelling expert Shaun Hendy said it was an excellent sign that none of the tests taken in the community had come back positive this week.

He said if there were no new community cases today and tomorrow it would be more than likely the government would reduce alert levels.

New Zealand had proven to be "lucky" this time round.

Shaun Hendy. Photo: NZ Herald
Shaun Hendy. Photo: NZ Herald
He said there was a sting in the tail of the initial outbreak with a three-day lockdown not sufficient to close it out. This latest seven-day lockdown was the government making absolutely sure to shut it down with confidence.

He said the UK variant was challenging to curtail but it appeared shorter, sharper lockdowns to control outbreaks were worth it in the long run.

"It was a good sign yesterday that none of the very large number of tests processed on Tuesday came back positive. That's an excellent sign and we'll be hoping we see the same thing today."

There were a number of potential exposures to a positive case last week and so far it appeared there had been no infections as a result.

"The one thing we know with this B.1.1.7 variant, you really don't want to let it get out of control. It spreads more rapidly and does take a lot of work to control it so my calculus is these shorter, sharper lockdowns to bring these new variants under control is probably worth it in the long run," said Hendy.

He said it was a super-spreading virus so while four out of five infected people would only impact household or very close contacts, the fifth person would spread it far and wide.

The hope was the recent case - a student who attended classes and went to the gym while infectious for up to a week - was not that fifth person.

Hendy said one of the major lessons from this outbreak centred on the difficulties surrounding contact tracing in a school community.

"It's very different to a workplace, for example, or even a retail environment. You've got a lot of casual encounters, you've got kids changing places and classrooms. I think that actually presents a really big challenge for contact tracing.

"I think if we have a situation like this at a school or a university in future we're just going to have to be that much better at our game."

 

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