New Zealand will maintain its current lockdown settings for 12 more days.
That would mean the current settings will be in place for 14 days – or one full incubation period.
The current settings will remain until 11.59pm on August 26, but Cabinet will review the settings on August 21, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced.
“There is nothing to suggest we need to move to a level 4 lockdown at this stage.”
Auckland shouldn’t be at level 3 for any longer than necessary.
“Short and sharp is best.
“But it is wise to take a bit of extra time.”
Ardern said it had been 53 hours since Auckland was in level 3, while the rest of NZ was in level 2.
She said the aim was to restore level 1 freedoms as quickly as possible.
Lifting restrictions now and seeing an explosion of cases later would be devastating for Auckland, and though level 3 was easier on the economy than full lockdown, she acknowledged that it would be hard on Auckland.
Ardern wouldn’t be drawn on the impact of extending the alert level settings on the election date.
She added that the Electoral Commission had done planning around an election if New Zealand was at level 2.
She said reviewing settings on August 21 meant that it was possible, depending on what mass testing showed, to ease alert level settings before midnight on August 26.
Ardern said the wage subsidy would be extended to protect jobs.
The details will be finalised, but it will be nationwide and will cover the period of time that level 3 restrictions are in place.
She said Auckland Transport had 44 construction sites operating, while five sites and 1200 workers continued on the City Rail Link.
“Houses continue to be built in Auckland.”
All of this is happening because of the protocols of operating safely at level 3, including social distancing at worksites, she said.
There are 29 cases linked to the cluster in Auckland, and one more case likely linked to the cluster, she said.
The 1.5 million people in Auckland were “carrying a heavy load” for the rest of the country, she said.
“If you’re in Auckland, please stay at home in your bubble. Wear a face covering whenever you leave your home.”
“Download and use the app and make sure you can quickly access your movements in the last 14 days in case you are contacted by contact-tracers.”
“If you’re unwell, get a test.”
More than 30,000 tests have taken place, and 38 people are in quarantine as a precuation.
She said the outbreak had been detected “relatively early”.
The earliest case in the cluster was a worker at the Americold Coolstore in Mt Wellington who became sick on July 31.
This person may not be the earliest case, and the source of the chain of transmission has not been discovered.
She said the genome sequencing of the current outbreak is not the same as any other previous transmission, which suggests it is a new strain in New Zealand.
Ardern said the source of the infection was not “a burning ember” from a previous chain of transmission, given that the genome sequencing of this strain appears to be new.
She said again that the cluster will continue to grow, and it may be linked to more social gatherings, churches and schools.
“It is possible to contain a cluster or outbreak without having to identify its origin.”
Ardern said moving all of the North Island to level 3 was unnecessary because all of the cases were connected, and all confirmed cases were in isolation.
But Auckland wasn’t moved to level 2, given the churches and schools that positive cases had attended.
In Auckland, there has been a 60 per cent reduction of travel compared with previous weeks.
Ardern and her colleagues have been locked in a Cabinet meeting since 3pm, poring over Covid-19 data in order to come to a decision.
Ardern has been joined by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield at this evening’s briefing.
Bloomfield said his advice was to continue the settings for 12 more days, but it was more important to have more time to see the extent of the outbreak.
“There may well still be the odd case and the odd new case in 12 days’ time,” he said, and the strength of the system was such that it could contact-trace and isolate cases quickly.
Bloomfield said the positive case in the Auckland Hospital was likely connected to the Americold workplace, though it hadn’t been confirmed yet.
The latest figures
An important piece of the puzzle will be today’s new Covid-19 numbers.
Ardern said on Tuesday night the Auckland lockdown would last until midnight tonight unless it was decided it needed to be extended.
This was after the discovery of four new cases of community transmission – all from the same family – in Auckland.
The rest of New Zealand was moved into level 2.
There are 30 active cases connected to the recent outbreak. Two new confirmed cases are in Tokoroa, the rest in Auckland.
Members of the cluster have travelled to Rotorua, Taupo and Morrinsville.
Bloomfield said today there were 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the community – 12 confirmed and one probable.
All the cases announced today were “clearly linked” to the existing Auckland cluster.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said this was “good news”.
Thirty-eight people linked to the cluster have moved into quarantine facilities.