Covid-19 coronavirus: Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins to give Valentine’s Day Covid cluster update

There are no new community Covid-19 cases in New Zaealnd, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Half of the Papatoetoe High School students have been re-tested – all negative so far.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said today it’s “business as usual” with no community cases and there was no evidence that would lead him to advise Cabinet to raise alert levels.

But there are two in managed isolation.

Bloomfield said yesterday’s news of new cases was “unsettling” but the Government’s contact tracing system was working well.

There are 11 community cases in New Zealand now – all at the Jet Park MIQ and all share “very close” genome sequencing.

There were more than 600 people tested at Papatoetoe High School yesterday and there were 300 tested so far today.

Bloomfield said there have been “repeated efforts” to get in contact with Papatoetoe High School students who have yet to be tested.

A number of those people have been contacted but have not yet got the test.

There are four people from Papatoetoe High School who have not had a test yet, who are getting a test today.

“There may have been reasons they have not been tested,” Bloomfield said.

Some 98-99 per cent of students have been tested, Bloomfield said, and there was just a small group outstanding.

On case J, who worked at Kmart, Bloomfield said she was mostly folding clothes.

But one day she was counting people coming into the store and on ‘click and collect’ duty.

“We are taking a very cautious approach,” Bloomfield said on the isolating of new contacts for 14 days.

Hipkins said: “We need people to follow the rules… and to do the right thing” when it comes to staying in isolation.

He said he was “very confident” that the Kmart in question did a thorough clean of the store since it re-opened.

Hipkins said there is work being done to support families at Papatoetoe High School through the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development.

He said the local Countdown and New World are prioritising home delivery in Papatoetoe.

He directed people with questions to the Ministry of Health website, where the locations of interest are listed.

He said officials were “actively monitoring” the variants of the Covid strain and the unusual symptoms like muscle aches and tiredness rather than respiratory symptoms.

All waste water testing has come back negative so far, apart from the pipes at the Jet Park, as expected.

One of the cases revealed last night was a recent school-leaver who works at Kmart Botany, which is now a location of interest.

Anyone who was at that location last Friday (February 19) and Saturday (February 20), between 3.30pm and 10.30pm, is considered a “casual plus” contact and must stay home and get tested.

Thirty-one staff are considered close contacts and have been told to isolate and get tested.

Hipkins is asking employers to “be supportive” of people who have been asked to stay home and self-isolate.

VACCINE ROLLOUT

More than 1000 border workers have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

And Bloomfield will be vaccinated publicly “soon”.

But he didn’t want to be seen to be “jumping the gun” as he’s not specifically a high risk worker.

He said getting vaccinated would be seen as him having confidence in the vaccine.

Hipkins also said that after the at-risk workforce has been vaccinated, a discussion will be had as to when MPs and other elected leaders across the country get the jab.

“We’re working through that… the public is looking for leadership from us.”

A second batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrived safely yesterday at Auckland International Airport.

“This shipment contained about 76,000 doses, and follows our first shipment of 60,000 doses that arrived last week. We expect further shipments of vaccine over the coming weeks,” Hipkins said.

“As with the first shipment, quality assurance and checks by Medsafe are underway.

“By the end of March, we’re due to receive a total of about 450,000 doses – enough to vaccinate 225,000 people with a two-dose course.”

That’s two doses per person, for frontline workers.

After the frontline workers and their families have got the vaccine, Hipkins said people in aged care could be next.

He said there “hasn’t really been any refusals” when it comes to frontline workers turning down the vaccine.

Hipkins said kiwi nurses have worked out a way to get six doses out of a vial which usually holds five doses.

Forty border workers from Christchurch Airport were vaccinated this morning, the first to do so in the South Island.

“This passes a milestone of the first 1000 border workers and vaccinators in New Zealand to receive their first dose. That’s a great start and we appreciate the effort of the vaccinators and border workers,” Hipkins said.

Hipkins said he suspected that international travel will, in the future, be highly likely to be dependent on whether or not someone was vaccinated.

“It’s good to see the gradual scale up,” Hipkins said on the vaccine campaign so far.

Hipkins said there have been “no issues” in getting the vaccines to New Zealand.

Hipkins said it has been an advantage for New Zealand having vaccines arriving in smaller batches, as it helps free up storage space.


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