Northland to join rest of country at Level 2; Auckland, Waikato stay at Level 3

Auckland will stay at level 3 with existing restrictions for the next two weeks at least, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

She could not say exactly how long Auckland would be at level 3 before restrictions eased further.

In Northland, the evidence suggested Covid-19 had not been spread further. It will move to level 2 at 11.59pm on Tuesday 19 October.

In Waikato, the cases were broadly linked but she said further cases and wastewater testing meant it should be held at level three for now.

That would be reviewed this Friday.

Ardern today said the rest of New Zealand will remain at level 2.

The path out of lockdown

Ardern said in the future she could not ask people to live week by week without knowing what restrictions they would face. On Friday, she would set out the new system for dealing with Covid-19.

The new framework would include a target before it came into effect, and that would be based on international experience.

That's a vaccination target. She said it would be very high.

Ardern says Super Saturday's 130,000 vax result was extraordinary and thanked all of those who took in it. "It reminded us all we are still a team, if we have a job to do we will rally to do it."

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the campaign to get vaccination rates up had been effective. He said 90 per cent was a "milestone" but "we do not intend to stop there."

Why PM didn't put Auckland into level 4

The Prime Minister said restrictions in Auckland had made a difference and vaccinations were still critical.

However, restrictions and vaccinations were still needed. That made it easier to keep control of Covid-19.

Cabinet wrestled with avoiding a spike in the coming weeks while vaccination levels rose.

Ardern said the alert level 3 rules were the toughest rules in place anywhere. She said experts had recommended a return to level 4 for a couple of weeks, but the public health advice was that two more weeks at level 4 was unlikely to reduce cases significantly because of the nature of the outbreak and compliance.

Ardern said that latter advice was critical.

Asked about the calls for a "circuit breaker" return to level 4, Ardern said she had always listened to advice from a range of experts and the public health experts on the ground.

"The advice was that level 4 would not necessarily make a difference to the number of cases in this outbreak... however, level 3, if followed, would make a difference and will continue to make a difference. But we need ongoing compliance."

Auckland will stay at level 3 with current restrictions that are already in place for the next two weeks, at least. Those restrictions allow people to visit friends and families outside, as long as they remain socially-distanced, limit their gatherings to two household bubbles and keep to groups of 10 people or fewer.

Any further easing of restrictions would not happen until at least then. She asked people to comply with those restrictions, especially the ban on indoor gatherings.

There were now cases in 124 suburbs - all across Auckland - and that meant anyone was at risk of getting Covid-19, no matter what suburb they lived in.

"We ask you be masked, and distanced, with no more than 10 people from two households."

"Indoor gatherings, parties, they're not part of level 3."

Asked about widespread breaches of the rules, Ardern said that households mixing indoors or in large gatherings was one of the contributors to the outbreak.

"We don't just make them up [the restrictions] they are based on advice from public health."

Ardern said there was a sense that people thought the outbreak was isolated to certain suburbs of Auckland. "And that is not true. Noone should think they can act differently just because they are in a part of Auckland that didn't have a case."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson was working on more business support packages and would set that out on Friday.

Public health experts, as well as calling for a level 4 move to be considered, have also cautioned against moving Auckland to step 2 of level 3 restrictions, which would see more customer-facing businesses reopen, including retail, libraries, and museums - with restrictions including mask-wearing.

The outbreak in Auckland has now spread throughout the city and case numbers are expected to grow, potentially 160 cases a day by early November.

There were 60 cases reported in today's update, including three in Waikato - two of which are unlinked.

That brings the total number of unlinked cases in Waikato to six. In total, including Auckland, there are 140 unlinked cases in the past fortnight.


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