Covid-19 cases in the community continued to rise today, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says lockdown is already making a difference.
Today’s 1pm briefing saw 68 new cases in the community, bringing totals to 277, but Ardern said the first sign the lockdown was having an effect was that fact that health authorities had not seen spread beyond Auckland and Wellington, where there was a known link to the Auckland outbreak.
“If it wasn’t for lockdown, I’m sure we would have seen cases spread further,” Ardern said.
The second factor could be seen in the locations of interest, which were not growing at the same rate the case numbers were.
“That’s because people are staying at home.”
A new case was reported in a staff member at the CHT Amberlea retirement home near Warkworth as confirmed on the company’s website, and in a staff member at the University of Auckland today, the second confirmed case there.
Ardern said across the locations of interest reported on the ministry’s website, just 13 currently had generated additional cases.
Vaccinations hit 3 million
More than three million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been given in New Zealand, according to the Ministry of Health.
In a statement released this afternoon, the Ministry said 1.94 million first doses and more than 1.07 million second doses have been administered.
Meanwhile, a collective of iwi are urging Māori to take their whānau for Covid jabs without delay.
The Te Ranga Tupua collective of Ngā Rauru, Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, Mōkai Pātea and Whanganui, which mobilised during last year’s outbreak, has been re-activated to help support local Māori through the latest outbreak.
“I think our people are starting to realise this is serious and we need to be immunising our whānau,” said spokesman Pahia Turia, chair of Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa.
“I do encourage our whānau to get out there, take the lead, and lead by example.”
There were also some continuing questions after RNZ revealed yesterday the Highbrook vaccination centre found five doses left over on 12 July.
That meant five of the 732 people vaccinated that day may have been injected with a harmless saline dose instead. Saline is used to dilute the vaccine once it has thawed.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Morning Report that authorities always had the intention to tell people about the issue.
“We were getting advice around whether or not we offered people a further dose.
“There was some question about that, because of the uncertainty about whether anyone had missed out in the first place.
“I’m completely committed to open disclosure on these events.”
Will we need a third jab?
A vaccine expert says Covid-19 “booster” shots are not needed right now, but may well be in the future.
A booster shot is being considered in other countries. The US is intending to roll them out, considering a third “top up” around eight months after a second dose.
Immunisation Advisory Centre director and GP Dr Nikki Turner, who advises the government on vaccines, explained why.
“Over time our immune response wanes. If it wanes low enough, you’re at risk of getting the disease again.
“So we give booster shots for many diseases to stop losing all of your immunity, and to keep protecting people long-term.”
Lockdown may last a month – Hendy
Professor Shaun Hendy, who is a Covid-19 modeller at the University of Auckland, said the current size of the outbreak far exceeded his initial calculations.
He said most of the cases being reported were still people who became infected prior to lockdown.
“This is telling us: we have got quite a large outbreak on our hands.”
“We’re really looking at an outbreak now that is similar to one that we dealt with in March and April last year … which was of the order of about 1000 cases.”
Hendy said, as such, Aucklanders should prepare to remain under level 4 for a similar length of time as last year: at least a month.
“Aucklanders are used to it now. We do have to ride it out.”
“Ride it out” is exactly what some people spoken to by RNZ today said they’re happy to do.
Erina Conroy, out walking her dog Starcey in the neighbourhood in Manukau, agreed.
“I think the more that you stress about the things that you can’t do what you want to do … They’re not really a big priority at this time … It’s just everybody’s safety as what’s really on my mind,” she said.
Hope Henare-Wynyard, from the same neighbourhood, stays with her grandmother and said it has been hard that extended family members who often came to visit can’t do so, but it’s a price worth paying.
“With the amounts of cases we have, I think it’s appropriate that we stay in lockdown, and I think we should do whatever it takes for New Zealand to go back to the way it was before this lockdown.”
Work, life and school are all changing
Students are back at distance learning for now, and the Education Ministry has announced changes to this year’s NCEA exams to deal with the problems caused by lockdown.
The Education Ministry told schools overnight the exams would start on Monday 22 November and finish on Friday 14 December, two weeks later than the original schedule in recognition of the disruption caused by the alert level 4 lockdown.
It also indicated further changes might be made such as reintroducing Learning Recognition Credits, once it was clearer how long the lockdown would last.
Many adults are working from home too, and dealing with constant Zooms and Skype calls. Telecommunications commentator Paul Brislen talked to RNZ today about the best practices for such meetings.
“If you’re in a Zoom call or a Teams call or whatever version of video conferencing you’re using, turn your cameras on – let’s see what people’s backgrounds look like,” he told Morning Report.
But it’s not always easy and there are fair concerns about privacy, he admitted.
“I do feel for everyone who is forced into a situation where working from home involves sitting at the kitchen table, as a colleague of mine did with three other flat mates on Zoom calls all at the same time huddled round a little student flat,” he said.
And of course, an awful lot of essential workers still are having to leave the house to get the job done for the rest of us.
Lepperton dairy farmer Mark Hooper is hooking his spreader onto his tractor and about to take advantage of the good weather and spread urea on his tiring paddocks.
“It’s been very much full-on on farm. It is the busiest time of the season.”
It was business as usual for Waste Management driver Ravinder Singh who was emptying wheelie bins in New Plymouth.
“Well someone has to work, you know, we are the frontline workers, so the industry we are in it’s more essential. The priority ones. You know, it’s quiet on the roads and easier for us.”