Covid-19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: 68 new community Covid cases – PM Jacinda Ardern and Caroline McElnay

There are 68 new Delta cases in New Zealand today, bringing the overall total of the Covid outbreak to 277 people.

Covid-19 has also been detected in Christchurch wastewater, though Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay pointed out there were three active cases in managed isolation in the city. Samples from nearly every other wastewater catchments were negative, she said.

In Wellington, Covid-19 continues to only be detected at Moor Point. No new results had been reported from Auckland wastewater since yesterday.

Of the 277 cases in the outbreak, 263 are in Auckland and 14 are in Wellington.

We are in a very similar place to yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The numbers are not unexpected, she said.

Out of more than 60 cases logged yesterday, only three reported new exposure events.

Thirty-seven of the cases are from within households that already had a case, Ardern said.

Of 60+ cases reported yesterday, 16 remain under investigation. Across 400+ locations of interest reported, 13 currently have generated additional cases.

What does this mean for lockdown?

The lockdown is having an impact, Ardern said.

There isn’t spread of the virus beyond Auckland and Wellington. If it weren’t for lockdown, Ardern said she was sure we would have seen cases spread further.

“With Delta, people are infectious much sooner and appear to give it more people. We can expect the lag time in our numbers to be longer, and bigger,” Ardern said.

She said we need to be “incredibly vigilant”.

Experts are telling the Government to stick to the elimination strategy, Ardern said.

The collective goal is to move away from lockdown measures and vaccines help us do that, the Prime Minister said. She said it’s not the Government’s intention to use lockdown measures “forever”.

Ardern said compliance with level 4 restrictions has been impressive so far.

“Always act as if you might have Covid,” she reminded New Zealanders. “The most important thing you can do to avoid further lockdowns, is to get vaccinated.”

Church cluster rises to 114 cases

There are still six sub-clusters. The Birkdale Social Network cluster has 35 confirmed cases and the Mangere church cluster has 114 cases.

There are 495 locations of interest – but only three new ones were added today. A rugby game was added that was pre lockdown, and two supermarket visits post lockdown.

24,402 contacts have been formally identified since 8am today. Sixty-five per cent have been followed up by contact tracers and individuals are self-isolating. Seventy-one per cent of all close contacts have had a test.

Yesterday New Zealand labs processed 41,739 swabs nationwide.

In Wellington, 3303 swabs were processed and more than 20,000 swabs were processed across Auckland yesterday.

Twenty-three community testing centres are open in Auckland today.

There are six regular testing centres, and 12 pop up centres. Today is expected to be another busy day at testing centres.

Alert levels decision

The numbers come as the Government begins to consider whether it can lift alert levels anywhere in the country outside of Auckland. That decision will be announced tomorrow.

Potential exposure sites in the outbreak are mounting and a warning the first wave’s peak will hit in the next 48 hours.

A second quarantine facility is due to open in Auckland to place the ballooning number of infected people needing to be isolated from families and outbreak models show a need to keep the city in lockdown for weeks to curb spread.

Yesterday was another record day for vaccination 87,772 doses administered. More than 3 million doses administered since vaccination campaign began. Largest bookings yesterday, 2700 bookings.

Five secondary school rugby games played at South Auckland’s De La Salle College are now potential exposure sites for Covid-19.

Everyone who watched or took part in a sporting clash that took place at the Mangere school on Saturday, August 14, is considered a close contact and is asked to isolate for 14 days. They include teams from Mt Albert Grammar, King’s College, St Paul’s College, Massey High and Dilworth School.

The locations of interest website does not specify which of these clashes are possible exposure events, rather it lists the school.

There are 494 exposure events involving 364 locations on the Ministry of Health’s locations of interest.

Bloomfield said on Thursday morning there were more cases to report, but none outside Auckland.

He also revealed a possible link from a case in the Māngere church subcluster to the traveller in the Crowne Plaza has been identified, which could solve the issue of any missing transmission links in the whole outbreak.

So far six epidemiologically-linked subclusters have been identified within the outbreak. The largest cluster associated with the AOG church in Mangere is sitting at 105 cases and the Birkdale Social Network cluster associated with the very first case is at 36 infected people.

It comes as the number of potential exposure sites swell to nearly 500.

Last night the 10th Auckland school was added to the growing list, with Otahuhu College listed.

Another fashion shop at a busy North Shore mall was added along with a fruit and vegetable store in South Auckland.

Bloomfield this morning revealed around 200 beds could be made available at a second quarantine facility in Auckland.

If the situation continued to worse there were still options for people to quarantine elsewhere in New Zealand in facilities in Wellington and Christchurch.

Meanwhile the country’s top health official this morning apologised after saline-diluted doses were administered to five people instead of the full-strength Pfizer vaccine in Auckland last month.

It came as fresh concerns emerged of a similar incident happening at a Christchurch vaccination centre.

“I’m sorry that incident happened but we did want to tell people what the options were,” he said.

Everyone who got vaccinated on July 12 would either get an email today or letter couriered to them to explain the situation and outline options. Those in the group who hadn’t received a second dose would now be expedited, he said.

Bloomfield, who did not have details about the Christchurch situation, said it took seven weeks to reveal the Auckland incident as there had been a lot of discussion about who was vaccinated and what happened.

They had then sought advice from their technical advisory group. It was only in the last month that evidence had emerged about getting a third dose. “We wanted to be in a position to tell them everything we could.

Auckland University Covid-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy said he expected Auckland to stay in Level 4 lockdown for “multiple weeks”.

“We will be looking to get back to zero cases. The first good signs will be when we see those numbers come down,” Hendy told TVNZ.

He said there was hope the number of cases would start to drop from next week.

Meanwhile Bloomfield revealed work was under way to look at what an internal boundary between Auckland and the rest of the country would look like, what travel would be permitted across the boundary and how it would be enforced.

Hendy agreed a north-south divide would make sense.

“I think at this stage, a North Island and South Island split is probably what we’d be looking at.”

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