Covid 19 Delta outbreak: No intention of using lockdowns forever – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

As Aucklanders wake up to day 28 in a life of alert level 4 lockdown, the Prime Minister says there is no intention for the lockdown system to be used forever.

Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show that officials did not intend to continue to use the lockdowns system in the long-term fight against Covid.

She pointed out that New Zealand had had fewer days where people had been given stay-at-home orders than most of the countries we compared ourselves to.

The key to stopping using lockdowns was to make sure everyone was vaccinated.

“We used them in the past because we didn’t have that tool.”

Despite saying we need as many people vaccinated as possible, Ardern would not put an exact figure on just how many people need to be vaccinated before lockdowns were no longer needed.

Speaking on TV1’s Breakfast programme this morning, Ardern said those mystery cases do not have to be linked before Auckland comes out of level 4.

Health officials continue to try to figure out how a “handful” of Covid cases are linked to the current outbreak. All the other cases are now genomically linked, she said.

People in seven key suburbs urged to get tested

However, people in a number of key suburbs around Auckland are being urged to go and get a Covid test – even if you do not have symptoms.

The suburbs are: Mt Eden, Massey, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Papatoetoe and Manurewa.

Extra testing is required in those areas because of links to mystery cases or clusters that may have unexpected cases, officials said yesterday.

Anyone anywhere in the city who develops flu-like symptoms is urged to get a Covid test immediately. But people in those specific suburbs are encouraged to get a test even without symptoms so authorities can get a better picture of the current Covid situation.

Many of the people affected by the current outbreak have been linked to those suburbs in the last few weeks and as a result, many of the current locations of interest on the Ministry of Health’s website, are businesses, supermarkets, petrol stations and companies in those areas.

Ardern told Breakfast if more suburbs needed surveillance testing, people would be notified this week.

Clusters will also be tightly managed to ensure contacts of cases were not causing other cases.

The Prime Minister reiterated the need for people to stay home to limit risk. One person should also be the sole person to go out shopping for each household. Ideally, that person will be vaccinated, she said.

She also called for people in the city to go and get vaccinated as early as today, if possible.

“If you’re already booked but it’s not until October, then rebook.” Try to get it done this week, she said.

“Our plan is not to continue to use lockdowns,” she told the programme.

There are 220,000 vaccination spots in Auckland this week, she said, and the Government wanted to use every one of them.

The country is in lockdown at the moment because not enough people are vaccinated to stop an outbreak, Ardern said. People were 30 times less likely to need to be hospitalised if they are vaccinated.

“Our goal is to continue to be world leading both in our freedoms and looking after people’s health and wellbeing.”

She finished off by saying that New Zealand needed to be better than those countries sitting around the 70 per cent vaccination mark if we want to move away from using restrictions.

Officials 'cautiously optimistic' about level change next week

Director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said the number of people with the virus needs to come down before Auckland can drop alert levels.

The “key” numbers, however, were the people who had caught the virus but whose connection to the current outbreak had not been established.

Despite those unlinked cases continuing to pop up, Bloomfield said officials were still confident and “cautiously optimistic” that Auckland would come down to alert level 3 in a week.

But it was important for people to remember that this had been a very big outbreak. This was Delta.

Bloomfield reiterated how a high vaccination rate in the community was necessary. Mobile vaccination vans are also now being organised to help vaccinate people at their own homes.

“The key to our next steps is to get a high vaccination rate,” he said.

'We are really chasing our tails now' – immunologist

Immunologist Graham Le Gros was less optimistic about the situation, saying New Zealand could not survive without Auckland working – and that was concerning.

Speaking to Three’s AM Show today, he said: “We really need to get you guys vaccinated 100 per cent.”

The virus had shape-shifted, he said, going underground.

“We are really chasing our tails now,” he said.

Le Gros said the Delta variant could infect mice, cats and even domestic animals – with the exception of dogs.

People only needed to look at what was happening overseas to see how much the virus had changed, he said.

“We can’t escape the virus. It’s changing so much.”

Speaking about lockdowns, Le Gros described them as exhausting and said no society could go through multiple lockdowns.

“Major societal pressures are underway and economic pressures – and when you do your modelling, you’ve got to put that into the model too.

“At which point do you start worrying about all the cancer death and the other societal induced deaths and all the alcoholism and things like that?”

As an immunologist, he said he understood how infectious diseases interacted with the immune system and what the virus would be doing in six months time.

New Zealand should be trying to get 80 to 90 per cent of the population vaccinated. Even having just one jab gives New Zealand a really good shot, he said.

New locations of interest

Three new locations of interest have been released by the Ministry of Health this morning.

10.30am update

Unichem Dawson Road Pharmacy

, 124 Dawson Rd, Clover Park.

Shum Fruit Barn

, 6/130 Dawson Rd, Clover Park.

Chapel Downs Food Market Clover Park

, H/113 Dawson Rd, Clover Park.

SuperValue Flatbush

, 8/130 Dawson Rd, Clover Park (three new visits recorded).

All but one of several new locations of interest released by the ministry this morning are located on one road – Dawson Rd in Clover Park, South Auckland.

The SuperValue Flatbush supermarket is now linked to a Covid positive case on five separate occasions.

A person with the virus visited the supermarket on Friday, September 3, once last Wednesday (September 8 ) and three times last Thursday (September 9).

The Unichem Dawson Road Pharmacy is linked to a person with Covid who visited the chemist last Thursday between 2pm and 2.30pm.

The Shum Fruit Barn was visited on the same day around the same time period – between 2.06pm and 2.15pm.

Two new locations of interest have been announced by authorities earlier this morning.

8am update

Māngere Pharmacy Māngere Town Centre, at 93 Bader Drive in Māngere, has been linked to a person with Covid who visited on Saturday between 11am and 11.15am.

The SuperValue Flatbush supermarket, at 8/130 Dawson Rd in Clover Park, had a person who tested positive for the virus visit last Thursday, September 9, from 2.07pm to 2.15pm.

Anyone who was at either place is told to monitor for any Covid-19 symptoms for 14 days after the day they were there.

The Ministry of Health also released a number of locations last night which showed a person with the virus has been travelling by train to and from central Auckland, from West Auckland, over the past few days.

The latest date of travel was on Sunday (September 12). The person travelled on the western train line from Grafton to Fruitvale Rd in New Lynn.

Several trips on the same train line have also been reported on the ministry’s website as a result, with trips recorded last Thursday, last Friday and Saturday.

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