COVID-19: All of New Zealand entering alert level 4 for at least three days
I have come out of my day of rest to report this.
Apparently, they don’t know whether this is the mythological Delta variant. I would be very surprised if this didn’t go the same way as Australia
16 August, 2021
All of New Zealand will enter an alert level 4 lockdown from 11:59pm tonight.
This will be for at least three days, although Auckland and the Coromandel are likely to be there for seven days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
This comes after a positive community case of COVID-19 was identified in Auckland and is now under investigation.
A link between the case and the border, or a managed isolation and quarantine facility, has yet to be established.
What you need to know:
- All of NZ will enter an alert level 4 lockdown from 11:59pm tonight
- The community case lives in Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore and is a 58-year-old male
- The Auckland Regional Public Health unit is undertaking interviews with the case for contact tracing purposes
- All COVID-19 vaccinations will be suspended for at least 48 hours
- It is New Zealand’s first community case in 169 days.
6:48pm – GPs are asked to do more appointments virtually since there is a need to reduce unnecessary movement of people out of their homes, Ardern says.
6:46pm – In terms of Cook Islands travel, Ardern says her assumption is that the Cook Islands will likely close flights into the country, but will allow people to fly out.
6:44pm – Ardern is reminding people not to panic-buy because there’s “no need”.
“I know we have a natural instinct and people worry about their provisions. Just remember other people need to buy things too – be kind, be courteous. It doesn’t make sense for people to rush out, it means you congregate,” she says.
“I have gotten used to [the fact that] nothing I say changes behaviour.”
6:41pm – Education facilities must shut during alert level 4 and children are at home, Ardern says.
“Teachers have done this before. I know how hard it is for them and parents. We do have an expectation schools will stand up the systems they’ve had in place,” she says.
6:39pm – Ardern says we, as yet, do not know the source of the case and genomic sequencing will give them an understanding.
6:37pm – Dr Bloomfield says Australia has been using the vaccine roll-out ramp-up to control the outbreak, whereas in New Zealand, it is the biggest thing to suppress the outbreak.
6:34pm – Wastewater testing suggests there isn’t widespread community spread in Auckland.
In terms of implementing an alert level 4 lockdown, Ardern says it’s better to start high and be able to move out.
“Go hard, go early has served us well,” she says.
There will be a 48-hour period for relocation, although Ardern says they want people to move around as quick as they can.
6:32pm – Even with high vaccination rates, there would still need to be a range of public health measures in place, Dr Bloomfield says.
Ardern adds that even some countries that have high vaccination rates are still seeing Delta cases.
6:29pm – The infected case isn’t vaccinated, although his wife is. Ardern says he’d had issuse with the vaccine booking website and was making “every attempt” to book in.
6:27pm – All COVID-19 vaccinations will be suspended for at least 48 hours while health officials are unsure if they can be done safely.
6:26pm – Ardern says there is a plan to assess if there are undetected chains of transmission elsewhere and we’ve seen the “dire consequences” of acting too slow.
6:22pm – New Zealand will move to alert level 4 from 11:59pm tonight. This will be for at least three days, although Ardern says the Coromandel and Auckland will likely be in lockdown for seven days.
6:20pm – Dr Bloomfield says the most recent wastewater test on Auckland’s North Shore came back negative.
He adds that it is possible there are other cases around.
6:16pm – There are 23 locations of interest: 13 are in the Coromandel and 10 are in Auckland.
6:14pm – Dr Bloomfield says the case is a 58-year-old male who lives in Devonport. The case was symptomatic on Saturday and his infectious period is considered to have started last Thursday.
There is still no obvious link to the border.
Genome sequencing confirming the variant is due back in the early hours of Wednesday.
The person lives with his wife, who has returned a negative test. They’ve both been self-isolating.
They travelled to the Coromandel township last Friday and the case has a small number of workplace contacts who are isolating and being tested.
6:02pm – Newshub understands this community case is a resident of Devonport on the North Shore and is aged in their 50s.
6pm – Ardern and Dr Bloomfield are now set to speak to media at 6:10pm, the Prime Minister’s Office says.
5:50pm – In about 10 minutes at 6pm, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will give an update on this community case.
You will be able to watch that in the video player above, here, or by tuning in on Three.
5:40pm – Epidemiologist Michael Baker says we can be “almost totally certain this is Delta” and there could be “serial chains of transmission”.
“If we’ve got an outbreak… that always implies there are cases we can’t see. It’s a tip of the iceberg situation.
“You will need a lockdown at some level”.
5:30pm – Disease modelling expert Shaun Hendy says this new case is “really disappointing”, given that New Zealand has had a good run with COVID-19.
“I was always optimistic we were going to get through the winter. Unfortunately with this case, we don’t know a lot and it’s obviously potentially quite concerning,” he tells Newshub.
“We’ve got to assume it’s Delta, even though it’s not confirmed.”
Hendy says the severity that the impact of this case could have will depend on whether health staff can establish a link to the border.
“If that does show up, then that suggests we may be dealing with a smaller outbreak. If they can’t, that means we’re probably dealing with a immunity outbreak and we’ll need to see alert level change quickly.”
5:20pm – Police are increasing their visibility at supermarkets as lengthy queues form outside some in Auckland. This is to give workers and the public reassurance.
“Police reiterate advice from our partner agencies to remain calm and that there is no need for panic buying,” a spokesperson says.
“Evening traffic congestion is also building across the region.
“Police remind motorists to drive to the conditions and to allow plenty of time to reach their destinations safely.”
5:10pm – If you’re in Auckland and need to get tested for COVID-19, a full list of testing centres is available here.
5:05pm – Watch Newshub’s breaking news special on the latest case here. You can also tune in on Three.
4:55pm – Epidemiologist Michael Baker says, like most New Zealanders, he is “very disappointed” at this case.
“We had gone about six months without any cases in the community, which is really good going, which is a tribute to our border workers and all New Zealanders for keeping this virus out,” he tells Newshub.
“We know with outbreaks there are two main types. One is when there is a case that is clearly linked to the border and that means contract tracing can work well because you know all the people that might be infected. You can obviously quarantine them, follow up their contacts and you can basically put a circle around the outbreak.
“The other type and much more serious is when you see cases in the community, you don’t know where they have come from and that means there must be other cases in the community that we don’t know about.”
Baker says the virus is “very contagious” and it therefore as a shorter incubation period.
“So if you see one case, there might already be many other chains of transmission you can’t see, and again we won’t know based on the one case we have got so far now how extensive that transmission is, but it does mean you need to use a lot more additional measures to dampen down and stamp out that outbreak,” he says.
“If the evidence shows there is no clear link to the border you have to basically assume there are many other cases and lines of transmission that you can’t see. Then you know time is of the essence and we know you have to respond very decisively and very rapidly. That does mean some level of lockdown as fast as possible.”
4:45pm – Antoinette Laird, the head of corporate affairs at Foodstuffs NZ, is assuring New Zealanders that their supermarkets are well-stocked.
“Fortunately, our North Island and South Island DC has plenty of extra capacity and the team have been holding extra volumes of key essential items should it be required in a case like this. So, we are again asking customers to #shopnormal and be kind to our teams and each other,” she says.
“Our teams are preparing to move alert levels and we ask customers to be patient as we prepare to roll out the various safety precautions required to keep everyone safe.
“In the meantime we encourage everyone to scan the COVID tracer app and wear masks to protect themselves and our teams.”
They will advise further after the Government’s announcement later this evening.
4:40pm – The owner of Tart Bakery in Grey Lynn, Philippa Stephenson, says while Auckland has been in this situation before, it’s still a “huge business disruption”.
“I just think it’s so terrifically sad that a business such as ours, that’s virtually a decade old, is very, very unwell because of nothing anybody did. It wasn’t from stupidity or financial irregularities or not paying people or any problem with anything – we simply got muched up by COVID,” she tells Newshub.
“When COVID hit, the supermarkets did extraordinarily well because they were the only people who were allowed to trade food, and it just completely blew everyone else out of the water.”
Stephenson says it’s been hard to get customers back in store now that people’s habits have changes throughout the pandemic, since more have realised they can cook and bake their own food at home.
4:35pm – Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says it’s “incredibly disappointing” this case has been found in the community.
“What we need to do now is take every step necessary to stop the spread of the virus,” he says.
“While we await the Government’s decision this evening, I urge Aucklanders to remain calm, follow the health guidelines, and remember we have been here before and we know how to beat the virus.
“All of us share a collective responsibility to do the right thing and to follow the rules. When the Government announces its decision on an appropriate response to the detection of the COVID case in our community, Auckland Council will follow any guidelines and health directives issued by the government.”
Goff asks Aucklanders to wear masks on public transport and in places where you can’t maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, and use the COVID Tracer app.
4:25pm – Ardern has just landed at Wellington Airport and said she didn’t have any updates to give.
She says people can watch the update at 6pm for the latest.
4:20pm – There is extra security at West Liquor in Glen Eden.
A Newshub reporter says there are cars piling into the car park and the store is heaving, although there are no queues out the doors yet.
4:15pm – More panic-buying has begun across Auckland.
The below image is from Countdown Lincoln Road.
4:10pm – In today’s vaccine update, 934,207 people are now fully vaccinated. A total of 1,619,943 people have received their first dose.
On Monday, 30,076 first doses were given and 16,020 second doses were given, bringing the total doses administered to 46,096.
4:05pm – Auckland Transport (AT) is reminding all commuters that face masks must be worn on public transport and customers are advised to scan in using the COVID Tracer app on buses, trains and ferries.
AT recommends that customers also register their AT HOP card to help with contact tracing.
“Everyone 12 years and older must wear a face covering on public transport at all alert levels,” they say.
“Face masks are on sale in vending machines at public transport facilities across Auckland. The masks are in 42 machines at bus and rail stations and ferry wharves.”
4pm – It is now confirmed that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Dr Ashley Bloomfield will provide an update at 6pm.
3:55pm – Countdown spokesperson Kiri Hannifin says they are in the process of preparing their stores for a change in alert levels, and they want customers to stay calm and kind while they do this.
Customers are asked to wear masks while in stores and to scan in using the COVID Tracer app.
“We know this is unnerving news for everyone, but we are well-practiced at shopping safely during alert level changes and we can do it again,” she says.
“At the moment all of our stores are open and we will have physical distancing measures in place, as well as extra cleaning and hygiene practises on top of what we do normally.
“We’re seeing extra demand for online shopping and remind everyone that all our stores are open and there is plenty of food and other groceries so there’s no need to buy more than you need.”
3:45pm – Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles is reminding people that we have been through this before and conquered it, so there is no need to panic.
“We need to prepare ourselves if a link isn’t found very quickly, then it’s likely our Government will react hard and fast as we have in the past,” Wiles tells Newshub.
“There is no reason to panic, this is the way we stop any further transmission or at least slow it down while the investigation is ongoing.”
She says it’s “really, really important” for people, especially those in Auckland, to call Healthline and get a test if they have any symptoms.
Wiles adds supermarkets will be open and stocked so there’s no need to panic-buy.
“The first thing to remember is that when we panic, we don’t act in our best interest. So remember to try to stay calm and remember that we have done this before several times,” she says.
“We have got through it every time. We know that the supermarkets stay open and stocked so there is no need to rush out.”
If people do go out and about, she’s urging people to wear a mask, especially if they’re in confined spaces or on public transport. She also asks people to always use the COVID Tracer app.
3:40pm – Countdown Mt Eden already has queues well out the door.
One shopper told Newshub it is busier now and the queue is longer than it was when Auckland was in lockdown.
“It only took an hour to get this busy,” he says. “It’s so busy.”
The queues are also similar at an unnamed Auckland supermarket.
3:37pm – Cook Islands authorities tell Newshub they are awaiting further information from the New Zealand Government before deciding on any changes to its travel bubble with Aotearoa following this case.
3:35pm – National Party MP Chris Bishop says it is “concerning news” about this case in Auckland.
“Encourage people to not panic. Use the tracer app. Stay calm,” he says.
3:30pm – Auckland Transport has issued a reminder that face coverings are mandatory on public transport at all alert levels.
“It’s a good idea to carry one with you in case you need to jump on a train, bus or ferry,” they say.
“If you forget yours, we’ve got you covered with disposable masks available in vending machines across the network.”
3:25pm – Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles is urging Aucklanders to stay calm while this case in under investigation.
“Health officials are investigating a case of COVID in the community. They’ll be looking for a link to the border/MIQ. In the meantime, don’t panic. We all know what to do. Stay calm, scan, & mask-up. And be kind to yourselves and each other,” she says.
“Also, a massive thanks and a gold star to the person with symptoms who got tested. Please if you have any symptoms that could be COVID-19 – things like cold and flu like symptoms and loss of sense of smell, GET TESTED!”
3:20pm – An update from the Government is expected at 6pm.
3:15pm – Some Auckland childcare centres are warning parents they may be required to keep their children at home, as the investigation of this case continues.
3:10pm – Joep de Ligt, who is the lead of bioinformatics and genomics at the Institute of Environment Science and Research (ESR), says the Auckland team is gearing up for a late night of lab work investigating this case.
“We’re on the job and will be looking for hints about potential links through the genome sequencing,” he tweeted.
3:07pm – COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins issued a stark warning earlier this month, that the Government wouldn’t hesitate to implement an alert level 4 lockdown if the Delta variant of COVID-19 emerged in the community.
Again, this case in the community is under investigation and the variant is unknown.
“The main variant is the Delta variant – it’s more transmissible, causing more hospitalisations and more deaths and making younger people sick,” Hipkins told reporters.
Hipkins said if the Delta variant appeared in the community – like it has in Australia with devastating results – the Government would act swiftly, and impose alert level 4 restrictions.
“In the event we discovered Delta we would move to alert level 4…we maintain the best economic response is a strong public health response, and a short sharp lockdown is likely to be more successful [than a longer, less restricted one].”
Hipkins warned any future lockdowns would be announced with very little notice and urged New Zealanders to have a plan.
“My message to all New Zealanders is this is not over we are still going to be dealing with this for some time to come.”
3:05pm – Cabinet is meeting right now and there is an All-of-Government meeting happening too. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will then give advice to ministers at 4:30pm and Cabinet will meet again.
2:55pm – Epidemiologist Michael Baker says it’s “very worrying news” that a community case has been detected.
“We’ve always known we would expect to see more outbreaks,” he tells Newshub.
“We can be fairly certain this will be the Delta variant as that is the dominant strain of the virus at present.”
It is currently unknown what variant the person has.
“I’m sure we’ll get very clear advice about what that means and we do know the formula New Zealand has adopted that works well is to have a very rapid and tense response to any case in the community not linked to the border,” Baker says.
He adds there’s “no doubt” contact tracing will be happening rapidly.
“If there is not an obvious source we would expect a very intense lockdown at this stage.”
He recommends Auckland should move to alert level 3 tonight if the source isn’t found, and if the infected person travelled, they’ve put the rest of the country at risk.
2:50pm – The community case was detected on Tuesday afternoon.
“While we collect more specific information all New Zealanders are reminded of the basic public health measures of mask-wearing and hand-washing. In particular anyone in Auckland catching public transport on Tuesday afternoon or who cannot socially distance in public spaces should wear a mask as a precaution,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said.
“Ministers will meet this afternoon once additional information is gathered to confirm a response. An update will be provided after that.
A hard-and-early response is the best tool to stamp out any potential spread and everyone in New Zealand is asked to stay calm, be kind and play their part while we gather more information on the potential case.”
Meanwhile, there are no new cases to report in managed isolation facilities. One previously reported case has recovered since Monday’s update, bringing the number of active cases in New Zealand to 43.