Covid-19 Delta outbreak: 20 new community cases today; no Middlemore staff or patients have returned positive tests

There are 20 new community Covid cases today, all of them in Auckland.

That brings the total number of cases in the outbreak to 922, including 352 that have recovered.

There are also three cases to report in MIQ today.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said no staff or patients have returned a positive case after being in potential contact with the cases in Middlemore Hospital.

Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed today’s case numbers, a day before Cabinet meets to review alert levels for the whole country.

Ardern said she didn’t want to speculate on advice regarding a lowering of alert levels.

“We’re making it based on the best information possible.”

Bloomfield said there was “no widespread community transmission in Auckland” but assumed there could be more cases out there.

That’s why there had been targeted testing of people, including those who were asymptomatic.

Ardern said although there were more than 30 unlinked cases, there were only a handful they were honing in on.

“Within the group, it is a handful that we’re quite fixated on.”

They were still seeing household contacts coming through and did still expect a proportion of day 12 tests to come back positive.

There are 34 unlinked cases.

Ardern said it was known where the vast majority of cases came from.

Unlinked cases will “very often” be linked back to the outbreak, often through genomic sequencing that takes a bit longer.

Ardern said it was hard when numbers jumped around, but it wasn’t a sign that level 4 wasn’t working, more that the tail of Delta can be long.

“We feel all of that anxiety with you as well.”

New vaccine deal: 500,000 doses from Denmark

Ardern announced 500,000 Pfizer vaccine doses will be coming from Denmark.

One shipment will arrive in Auckland in the middle of the week, and a second shipment will arrive later.

This will allow the supply in the country to be able to meet the surge in demand of the last few weeks until the larger shipments arrive in October.

Ardern has a close relationship with Denmark PM Mette Frederiksen, and met with her in 2019 while they were in New York for UN leaders’ week.

Earlier this week about 250,000 doses arrived from Spain, enabling the rollout to continue to meet the current surge in demand – though vaccination numbers have dropped off in the last week.

Denmark has high coverage of the population that is fully vaccinated, and has lifted all Covid-19 restrictions.

Half a million Aucklanders are now fully vaccinated. Drive-through sites in Auckland have capacity to do 10,000 vaccine doses a day, she said.

“Thank you Auckland, and keep it up,” Ardern said.

As for deliveries coming from Denmark, Ardern said there was nothing holding NZ back in terms of the vaccine rollout.

“My message to everyone there’s no reason not to come and receive your vaccination today.”

Regarding vaccinations and pushing people to get a jab, Ardern said she hadn’t set a figure: “I just want people to get it done”.

The subclusters

There are 379 cases in the Mangere church subcluster, another group with 164 cases, and 76 in the Birkdale social network. There are 16 subclusters or groups of interest, seven of which are considered to be contained.

In these three subclusters there is concern about possible spread beyond households.

There are 150 very close contacts still in their 14-day isolation period. So far about 16 per cent of very close contacts have tested positive.

Of yesterday’s 23 cases, 11 are contacts of other cases, seven are household members of a case, and 10 were potentially infectious in the community. Three of them are unlinked.

The case from Middlemore who tested positive last weekend has now been linked to the wider outbreak, Bloomfield said.

New locations of interest continue to be identified, and Bloomfield asked people to keep checking these on the minsitry’s website.

Asked about the three subclusters still delivering cases and whether there’s any danger in the community, Ardern said even if they were having a hard time connecting a case, genome sequencing was helping form the links and narrow down the mystery links.

Bloomfield said there had been “excellent engagement” from those involved in the subclusters and while there was a number ofexposure events in the community – 40 – only four were of concern.

Ardern said they were still reporting what initially were unlinked cases and they might be people all in one household.

The issue tended to be people who have popped out to a supermarket and not known that they were a case, she said.

Because it was Delta, any exposure events gave them cause to be concerned and contact trace around them as well.

18 people in hospital; four in ICU

There are 18 people in hospital, including four in ICU.

One person presented to Middlemore Hospital in the last 24 hours and is in ICU. Bloomfield said it was important to seek care immediately.

“Our hospitals are safe. There are very strict protocols in place. Please do not delay of hesitate in seeking care.”

There were 10,958 tests processed, including just under 5000 in Auckland.

He said there had been good testing in areas of interest around Auckland.

There were 350 very close contacts, not 150, he said.

More than 13,000 essential workers have been tested so far, with no positive tests to date, Bloomfield said.

That included 5500 DHB workers, and 3450 further healthcare workers.

Of just over 38,000 contacts, 92 per cent have returned a test result.

Bloomfield said a very cautious approach has been taken for granting travel exemptions outside Auckland for personal reasons. He wanted to pass on his sympathy to those who had applied but been turned down. This was due to the public health risks, he added.

As for people not staying at home when they should be, Bloomfield said there was usually more than one exposure event and there could be good reasons for that identified – and who needs to be classified as a contact.

Yesterday's cases

Yesterday there were 23 cases, all in Auckland, a jump from 11 the day before and 13 the day before that, though the ministry said the numbers will bounce around as day five and day 12 test results come through.

The number of cases that were potentially infectious in the community have been eight on Friday, one on Thursday, and six on Wednesday, and five on Tuesday.

Yesterday the number of unlinked cases in total was 36.

The three cases announced last night included a 5-month-old baby and their parent, who arrived at Middlemore’s children ED department on Friday afternoon. The parent said they did not have any symptoms, nor had they been to a location of interest, but staff said the baby had symptoms and they were both tested.

Five contacts so far have been identified.

A woman who attended an antenatal class at Middlemore on Wednesday developed symptoms the following day, and then tested positive.

Contacts were being identified last night, including whether she had contact with any staff.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker says the new cases highlight the difficult dilemma facing Cabinet as it decides tomorrow whether Auckland can come out of level 4 lockdown and down to level 3 from 11.59pm Tuesday.

“These unexpected cases, all of them really do need to be resolved, and we need to have several days with no cases like this.”

Covid-19 modeller Rodney Jones said the likelihood of Auckland moving out of level 4 next week was looking “very low”.

Middlemore has been the focus of other cases and contacts in the last week.

A man was admitted last weekend and shared a ward with other patients. He later tested positive and 149 patients and staff had to be tested.

And a woman, now in managed isolation, tested positive on Thursday after she went to the emergency department and adult short stay ward before going home.

She’d earlier told staff she’d not been exposed to the virus, had no symptoms, and hadn’t been at any locations of interest.

Seven police officers, 36 patients and some visitors are considered to have been potentially exposed.

Cabinet meets tomorrow to decide whether there needs to be any alert level changes.

Auckland has been in alert level 4 since August 18, while the rest of the country is in Delta level 2.

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