Day 5 of Covid-19 in the capital: the government needs additional test findings

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Wellington’s stay at level 2 has been prolonged until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday; the trans-Tasman bubble is under severe strain, and the hospitality industry is requesting particular assistance for the new setback.

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Top from left, taking a nasal swab at a testing site in Wellington, lockdown is underway in Sydney, the government is keen to see more test results and hospitality isn’t happy with the government’s support package. Photo: RNZ / AFP/ 123RF

Cabinet has decided to extend the level 2 restrictions in Wellington for 48 hours until 11.59pm on Tuesday. The rest of New Zealand remains at level 1.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield provided an update today, a week after a Sydney tourist with the highly infectious Delta variant visited Wellington.

Hipkins announced that there were no new community cases and one in managed isolation.

However, he also revealed that the Sydney man’s partner has now tested positive, suggesting the man was infectious towards the end of his visit.

“It’s clear that we are not out of the woods yet, more testing and more results are required in order for us to feel confident in making a decision to lower alert levels,” Hipkins said.

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Chris Hipkins: “More results are required in order for us to feel confident in making a decision to lower alert levels.” Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

As of yesterday 2444 potential contacts have been identified with 2067 returning negative results, and the remainder are expected in the next day or two.

Additional Covid-19 testing facilities across the Wellington region will continue over the next two days.

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Capital and Coast District Health Board will operate pop-up testing sites at Wellington Regional Hospital, Hataitai Park and Lower Hutt’s Riverbank car park tomorrow and on Tuesday.

Trans-Tasman bubble

The current situation with cases in Australia is the worst it has been since the bubble started, Hipkins said.

“The R-value for the outbreak is calculated at 2.89. Remember that an R-value greater than 1 suggests that the virus is continuing to spread.

“We’ve also been made aware of a potentially significant event in a Northern Territory mine. A case is deemed to have been infectious for five to six days whilst working at the mine. With over 700 close contacts having been identified – 100 of those are considered to be very close contacts.”

He said about 950 workers have left the mine during that period and are now scattered across Australia. “We are working very hard to identify whether any of the miners have arrived in New Zealand since that time.”

Quarantine-free travel with Australia has been paused until 11.59pm on Tuesday, after Greater Sydney was placed into a two-week lockdown yesterday.

Northern Territory announced four new community cases today while Queensland recorded two new community cases.

People wait for a tram in the empty central business district in Sydney on June 27, 2021, on the first full day of a two-week Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant.

People wait for a tram in the first full day of a two-week lockdown in Sydney. Photo: AFP

Hospitality sector unhappy despite government support

The extension of alert level 2 triggers the resurgence support payment for businesses.

A business or an organisation needs to show at least a 30 percent drop in revenue or a 30 percent decline in capital raising ability over a seven-day period, due to an increase in alert levels.

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The payment is calculated at $1500 per business plus $400 per equivalent fulltime employee, to a maximum of 50 fulltime equivalent employees.

So the maximum payment is $21,500. Sole traders can receive a payment of up to $1900.

Julie White, Chief Operating Officer and Hospitality NZ

Julie White Photo: Hospitality NZ

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White welcomed the payment but said her sector needs targeted support.

She said some businesses have already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“The government needs to acknowledge that not all sectors are impacted equally. We have been asking for a sector specific package since Covid came to our shores but yet it falls on deaf ears.”

She said hospitality workers are “absolutely gutted” about the extension of alert level 2.

“It’s good to hear that the resurgence support package has been activated, but look for some [businesses] they’ve had hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cancellations so this lockdown – sorry level 2 – is really impacting us and Covid seems to continue to impact us.”

Experts pleased

Scientists say the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus could still be lurking among us, and are backing the government’s decision to extend restrictions in Wellington.

The capital is reaching the crunch point, when anyone who contracted the Delta variant last weekend would be most likely to develop symptoms, University of Canterbury maths and modelling expert Professor Michael Plank said.

He is pleased alert level 2 has been extended, and said it was now a waiting and vigilance game.

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Epidemiologist Nick Wilson said now was the time for the government to upgrade fortifications, by ensuring all frontline border and healthcare workers have been vaccinated as well as including masking for indoor venues in the alert level system and making it compulsory to scan in with the Tracer app at high risk indoor venues.

Another epidemiologist, Professor Michael Baker told Sunday Morning that several gaps still exist in the precautions, including compulsory QR code scanning for large venues and a high level of indoor mask use. He said the pause in the quarantine-free trans-Tasman bubble gives us the chance to reassess it.

Thumbs-up for vaccine from former PM

Former prime minister Helen Clark shared the news that she is now fully vaccinated after a visit to a clinic in Auckland today.


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