Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Cabinet decision on alert levels, PM Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield to front

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will shortly reveal the latest decisions around alert levels as a record number of new daily cases are reported.

Ardern will be joined by director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield for the 4pm announcement, revealing Cabinet’s alert-level decisions for Auckland and Waikato. Both regions are in alert level 3.

It comes as Auckland enters its 12th week in lockdown in a bid to contain the Delta outbreak that began in August and has now reached 3510 cases.

There were 162 new cases reported on Monday – a new daily record.

There was one new case in Northland, bringing the total number of cases for the region to 13. All of the cases were isolating at home with public health oversight.

Of the other new cases, 156 are in Auckland and five in Waikato.

Meanwhile, 53 people are in hospital, and three in ICU.

These numbers have remained relatively steady since the outbreak began despite a dramatic rise in daily case numbers, indicating a drop in the hospitalisation rate.

This has accompanied an increasing proportion of those infected being vaccinated.

As of today just over 75 per cent of the eligible population – aged over 12 – have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and just over 88 per cent received at least one dose.

Of those infected in this outbreak, the proportion without a single dose has dropped from 82 per cent on September 9 to 72 per cent.

Meanwhile, the hospitalisation rate has dropped from 9.7 per cent to 7.4 per cent over the same period.

Ardern revealed this morning that current modelling showed there could be a peak of up to 200 community cases per day this month.

That modelling was part of the focus for ministers meeting today around any changes to alert levels.

Ardern told Three’s AM Show this morning that she would be sharing that updated modelling expectation at the post-Cabinet press conference.

She declined to discuss what Cabinet would decide later today on Waikato and Auckland’s alert levels – the latter currently in an alert level 3 phase one situation.

Despite that expected jump in community cases, Ardern said modellers believe this month would start to show the impact of vaccinations.

She did, however, say there was a sense of caution about really seeing what the impacts a double-vaccinated population of 80 per cent plus would have on case numbers.

Prior to moving to the traffic light system, Cabinet would still be looking at the “step downs” before hitting the 90 per cent vaccination target. The next step was around when retail stores would open up.

“Essentially, those are the considerations for us – do we believe what’s happening now is predictable.”

At the moment, case numbers were travelling fairly predictably, but they had to be careful because they didn’t want to make a “mis-step” before hitting the peak. In terms of reaching the 90 per cent vaccination target, things were tracking really well in Auckland, she said.

Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy told TVNZ’s Breakfast show that we had another “couple of weeks” of community case numbers rising.

“It is quite concerning,” he said.

If the case numbers got up to 200 to 300 cases a day, that would put a lot of strain on the health system in Auckland.

On any potential drop down the alert levels, Hendy said that should not happen – and even said that a circuit breaker at this stage could really bring the number of unlinked community cases down.

“I don’t think we can relax … until we start to see those numbers drop.”

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