Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 14 new community cases and more details about virtual MIQ booking system

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

There are 14 new cases of Covid-19 in the community - and an "unexpected" detection of the virus in wastewater north of Auckland.

All the new cases are linked to existing cases but three people were infectious while in the community, creating 10 new exposure events, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

There was an increase in testing yesterday in Auckland, with 10,341 new tests completed.

A worker at the SO/Auckland managed isolation facility had tested positive to Covid as a part of regular testing, he said. The worker was fully vaccinated and is now in quarantine. The Herald first revealed the positive result this morning.

Covid Response Chris Hipkins said there are no certainties about Auckland moving to level 3 next week, but he did say there are good signs, including fewer unlinked cases.

"Trends are heading, generally speaking, in the right direction," he said.

"But things can change, and they can change quickly."

On wastewater testing, there was one "unexpected detection" of Covid from Snells Beach, north of Auckland, said the Ministry of Health. It was from September 7 - a delay due to a logistical issue - and additional testing is underway.

New MIQ booking system

Hipkins said the pause on new managed isolation bookings for returning Kiwis would be lifted on Monday September 20.

That was due to an easing off of demand from local community cases needing isolation rooms.

A new MIQ booking system that aimed to make it fairer and easier for returning Kiwis to book managed isolation rooms was also due to be launched, Hipkins said.

Details on how the new lobby booking worked would be up on Government websites but it aimed to allow people wanting to book a room into a virtual lobby where they will then all have an equal opportunity to book a room, Hipkins said.

He asked travellers looking to book a room and enter the virtual lobby booking system to make sure there are flights available into New Zealand on the days they wish to book a managed isolation room.

Hipkins said managed isolation rooms have been set aside for people who need to travel urgently and this is accepted by the Government.

Spots in MIQ for overseas travellers were put on hold when the Delta outbreak in Auckland started and officials realised rooms needed to be kept free for people in the community who had caught the virus.

Only emergency vouchers have been made available to New Zealanders overseas since.

The new booking system aimed to do away with the need for people to spend hours watching the booking website, refreshing their browsers in the hope they are the first to see a new room become available, or the use of computer programs to do this automatically, he said.

Hipkins said he wasn't sure how much demand there was currently among Kiwis overseas wanting to return home.

The new booking system was specifically designed to prevent bots - or computer programs - from automatically booking managed isolation rooms on behalf of returning Kiwis, he said.

The new lobby booking system would deal with managed isolation rooms available between now and December - in other words, it would be available for anyone wanting to return from next week through to early December.

The booking system should also help ease demand on the MIQ website, Hipkins said.

In the past when the Government released tranches of new rooms, it often led to a rush among people wanting to book and high demand on the website, he said.

Bloomfield said vaccination numbers are now ahead in all district health boards.

He said differing vaccination rates among DHBs was due to different approaches and populations, with some DHBs having greater numbers of people living rurally.

Expectant mums urged to get jab

Bloomfield revealed that there have been cases of unvaccinated pregnant women arriving in hospital with Covid and urged expectant mums to get the jab.

"It's timely to remind anyone in the country who is expecting a baby about the importance of getting vaccinated. We have seen some unvaccinated pregnant women arriving in hospital with Covid-19, quite unwell as a result of the virus," Bloomfield said.

"It's now very clear from experience globally and our experience here with a large number of pregnant people vaccinated that there are no additional safety concerns with getting the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine. It is safe in any stage in pregnancy and vaccinating during pregnancy also helps protect your baby as there is evidence that infants can get antibodies of the virus through cord blood and then once they are born through breast milk."

New treatments for Covid-19

Bloomfield said there was huge support among doctors for the nation's vaccine programme, with a petition now circulating among doctors to show their support.

He said New Zealand had a fast approval process and was keeping up to date on the latest and most effective treatments for Covid 19.

He outlined three main categories of treatments for Covid that are being used or under consideration in New Zealand.

Bloomfield said all treatments of Covid complement rather than replace vaccines.

Bloomfield said he didn't know how many people were using the drug Ivermectin in New Zealand but he had heard of people requesting it and trying to import it.

He emphasised that it is not a safe or proven treatment.

Jabs touch down

Hipkins said 250,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine purchased from Denmark had just arrived at Auckland Airport.

He said more than 70 per cent of eligible Kiwis had now received one dose of Pfizer and 36 per cent have had two doses.

Ninety per cent of those aged over 60 have had their first dose

Hipkins said the main age group where "a lot of work" was needed to be done to boost vaccine numbers was with those under 40.

The Auckland DHBs had now vaccinated more than one million people. But by the end of this week, health teams wanted everyone in the city to have had the chance to have their first dose.

Along with pharmacies and more GP clinics offering vaccines, Hipkins said the vaccination buses will also hit the roads to offer jabs.

They will go to communities where vaccine rates are low or where it is difficult for people to get access to buses.

Health teams hope to operate 12 buses in the coming weeks.

Bloomfield said he hoped daily vaccination numbers could get to new highs now the country had enough Pfizer doses.

Hipkins said it was up to those aged under 40 to get out and get vaccinated to achieve these numbers.

"It now comes down to Kiwis booking in and coming in and getting their vaccines," he said.

When asked how significant disinformation is in stopping the final 23 per cent of Kiwis from booking in to get their vaccine doses, Bloomfield said he thought the current outbreak had given many Aucklanders a reality check.

The vaccine is highly protective in helping prevent people from getting Covid symptoms and being hospitalised it.

Hipkins said some of those who hadn't signed up for a vaccine booking simply had questions - "it's perfectly OK to have questions".

He urged people not to be "sucked in" by the wrong sources of information.

Early this year there had been a higher level of vaccine hesitancy that had come down now, he said.

He also said what is being seeing overseas is that the pandemic was morphing into a pandemic among the unvaccinated.

He believed Kiwis are more informed about vaccines than in other places around the world.

"I am incredibly proud about that," he said.

Auckland has been in alert level 4 lockdown for almost five weeks. Photo / Dean Purcell

Meanwhile, the latest locations of interest include a petrol station in Manurewa and another shop on Dawson Rd, Clover Park.

Today's update comes as the Ministry of Health reported 15 positive cases of Covid-19 in the community yesterday. Two people with the virus were reported on the border.

All of the community cases were household contacts and all were in Auckland.

Eight of yesterday's positive cases have exposure events, the health ministry said.

Of the 953 people in Auckland with the virus, 382 had since recovered. Of the 17 community cases in Wellington, 12 have recovered.

Health officials said nine epidemiologically linked sub-clusters remained, with the two largest being the Māngere church group - 381 positive cases as of yesterday - and the Birkdale social network group, with 77 people with Covid.

Authorities also said nine clusters are epidemiologically unlinked.

A total of 22 people were in hospital as of yesterday's afternoon update: four in North Shore Hospital, 10 people in Middlemore and eight at Auckland City Hospital.

Are there any new Covid cases in the community today? Photo / Dean Purcell

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