Five hundred more Defence Force staff are being deployed to managed isolation facilities and the Government is also directly hiring security guards to help control the centres.

It comes as officials report six new cases of Covid-19 today, one of which is in managed isolation.

The other five cases are in the community, all linked to the South Auckland cluster.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today’s results were “encouraging” and there appeared to be no surge in community cases.

There were also no more cases related to the Rydges infection announced yesterday.

The cases were not doubling each day over the past week, and the resurgence plan was working as intended so far, Ardern said.

She said Cabinet’s testing strategy from late June had not been executed as expected, and she outlined three new measures.

A small team will be set up to support the Health Ministry, co-chaired by Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche, will help the ministry with the testing strategy.

“We are implementing here a strategy that cuts across multiple government agencies. Health is deeply embedded in the roll out and we do need to support them.”

She said Roche was working alongside Auckland’s public health unit, and he will report to director general of health Ashley Bloomfield on progress.

Bloomfield said it might be worth looking at tightening level 1, including more mask use and physical distancing.

Ardern wouldn’t be drawn on whether level 1 should be tightened and she had not talked to Bloomfield about that.

‘No system is foolproof’ – PM

Ardern said 500 more Defence Force personnel would be deployed to managed isolation facilities, bringing the total to 1200 Defence Force staff. This boost will be rolled out over the next six weeks, and staff at each facility will be 19 per facility. That will bring the total Defence Force personnel supporting the Covid-19 response to around 1200 – the largest military contingent since Timor-Leste.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is giving a press conference at 1pm with the latest test results. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is giving a press conference at 1pm with the latest test results. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Government will also be moving to a model of direct employment of security guards with the appropriate training, Ardern said

Staff will also be at the maritime border to assist Customs, she said.

“This will raise accountability and will give more central control over procedures.”

She said these measures would help limit the risk of further spread.

“No system is foolproof and in a global pandemic, there are no absolutes.”

Some 40,000 Kiwis had returned from overseas, and it was “unrealistic” to have a perfect border system, she said.

“I don’t think we should leave it to [the Health Minsitry] alone,” Ardern said.

It wasn’t a sign that the strategy wasn’t properly resourced, but rather that it was a complex operation, she said.

Ardern said there was nothing to suggest a link between the outbreak and private security workers at managed isolation facilities.

Bloomfield welcomed the extra Defence Force staff and didn’t see it as a vote of no confidence.

He said he would have liked the testing strategy of border-facing workers to have been rolled out at a faster rate, a sentiment Ardern and Health Minister Chris Hipkins have previously expressed.

He had not asked why his Ministry had told Hipkins that there was weekly testing at the Jet Park Hotel several weeks ago when that wasn’t happening.

He had been focusing on the response to the outbreak but would look into why that had happened in due course.

Ardern said there was “no intention to move to level 4, and no need to” based on test results so far.

Breakdown of 1200 Defence Force personnel:

• 990 at Managed Isolation Facilities
• 80 at Border
• 70 in Police Traffic Management
• 100 for electoral support.

There are 125 people linked to the cluster who have been moved into the Auckland quarantine facility, including those cases and household contacts.

There have been 1299 confirmed cases in New Zealand.

There are five people receiving hospital-level care, one in Auckland City Hospital and four in Middlemore.

Bloomfield said there were 23,038 tests were processed yesterday.

Since August 11, there have been 1983 close contacts identified, of which 1861 have been contacted.

He said the Glen Innes Pak N Save was only visited once by a confirmed case on August 12, and Bloomfield apologised for giving different information yesterday.

He said serology would be used at the Rydges Hotel to see if there was an intermediary who was infected by the person returning from the US who then might have passed Covid-19 on to a maintenance worker.

Another possibility is that she infected a surface that the worker then touched.

Ardern said there is no evidence that higher surveillance testing of Pasifika communities might have detected this outbreak earlier.

She said everyone had a role to play to counter rumours and misinformation, including online platforms such as Facebook.

The World Health Organisation could play a role in fighting misinformation, she said.

Businesses failing to display QR codes, which is now mandatory, could be fined about $300, Ardern said.

Ardern said there was no plan to mandate vaccination if and when a Covid-19 vaccine became available.