Hipkins rules out a snap level 4 return - for now

Photo: NewstalkZB
Photo: NewstalkZB
New Zealand is a long way from a return to level 4 lockdown - and 100 cases in Auckland won't be enough to tip the scale.

Covid Minister Chris Hipkins was pressed by Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB about whether there was any truth in rumours circulating about a snap level 4 lockdown.

When asked by Hosking about Auckland going to level 4, Hipkins ruled it out - at this stage.

"No, at this point the real question are whether the cases are still contained in Auckland and the other metrics including percentage of hospitalisation. ...vaccination is helping.

"We are seeing fewer people in hospital even though the cases are growing they're growing slower than they otherwise would."

Asked again about the possibility of a level 4 if Auckland hit more than 100 cases, Hipkins again said it wasn't something they were considering "and I wouldn't put a threshold like 100 on level 4".

Hipkins said he wasn't surprised by yesterday's 94 case numbers - seven of which were in Waikato.

"We knew that case numbers were going to go up and we're at that point in this particular outbreak where we're likely to see big case numbers.

"Case numbers have not grown as exponentially as countries who have found themselves in a Delta outbreak."

While he didn't know today's numbers, he said they were getting "closer to 100".

As for the slowing vaccination rate, Hipkins said they were now getting down to the harder-to-reach group of first vaccinators.

"It is those first doses though that we have to get more movement on," he told Newstalk ZB.

They were seeing good second dose progress and that made an "enormous" difference in hospitalisations.

On TVNZ's Breakfast, Hipkins said of yesterday's jump in community cases: "Yes, I think it is sobering... but it could have been even higher.

"We still need to reach the unvaccinated before the Covid-19 virus does. They are the people most at risk, so we want to get our vaccination rates up."

Hipkins acknowledged that the near future would look very different and that it was likely we would never get back down to zero Covid cases in the community.

Speaking about some prominent community leaders deliberately telling people not to get vaccinated - particularly in Māori and Pasifika communities - Hipkins said it was important for people in those communities to know that such messages were based on "completely inaccurate and false information".

National leader Judith Collins told the AM Show she would end lockdown by December 1 or earlier if they could get to the 85 to 90 per cent double vaccination rate.

Lockdowns had already come at a huge cost to New Zealand and she had been really shocked to learn 85,000 medical procedures and operations had been cancelled in the first six weeks of lockdown.

That included people getting assessments or treatments for cancer or heart disease.

"We cannot simply have people paying an enormous cost because the Government stuffed up the vaccination rollout. Just get on with it, get on with it."







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