Decision due today on Covid alert levels

Cabinet is due to announce today whether the Covid alert levels will be reduced or not. Auckland is currently on level 2.5 with the rest of the country on 2.

It had been looking promising for a lowering of levels, with several days of no new community cases – until yesterday when the Ministry of Health announced: 4 new cases of COVID-19

There are four new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today; two community cases and two cases in managed isolation.

The two community cases are household contacts of the case reported yesterday, which is not connected to the Auckland cluster. The case reported yesterday is a recent returnee who arrived in New Zealand from India on August 27 and completed managed isolation, returning two negative tests at the facility in Christchurch before returning home to Auckland on September 11. 

The case reported yesterday was tested after developing symptoms on September 16, and returned a positive result. He and his household contacts self-isolated when he developed symptoms. They were all moved into the Auckland quarantine facility on September 18, when the first case returned a positive result. 

All identified close contacts have been isolated and tested. 

The source of the case’s infection is still under investigation, but genome sequencing is consistent with two confirmed cases from the same flight from India to New Zealand that landed on August 27.  

It is possible that this case was infected during that flight and has had an extremely long incubation period – there is evidence that in rare instances the incubation period can be up to 24 days. This person developed symptoms 21 days after he arrived in New Zealand.  If this is the case, it sits well outside the standard incubation period of the virus. 

The vast majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 will become unwell within 14 days. Having returnees stay in managed isolation for 14 days remains the gold standard, and this is also the approach adopted by other countries. Our own modelling confirms that 14 days spent in managed isolation with two tests leaves a very low risk that someone will leave managed isolation with COVID-19.

Another possible scenario is that the case may have been infected during the flight from Christchurch to Auckland – other passengers from that flight are currently being contacted and assessed as a precautionary measure in order to exclude them as the source of infection.

This sort of uncertainty must weigh on the Cabinet decision, but Government advisers and allies are downplaying the implications.

Newshub: Fresh COVID-19 community cases lead to call for border restrictions review

It’s prompted the question – do we need to keep returnees in isolation for longer?

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield…

…says there are two most likely ways the man could have become infectious.

“Could be the person was actually infected before they left India, on the flight from India, during the period of managed isolation or subsequently even on that flight from Christchurch to Auckland.”

But he says there’s no risk to the public

Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy:

“There’s a low likelihood that the new cases have led to unknown cases so I don’t think this will affect their decision tomorrow,”

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker…

…says the chances of incubating the virus for longer than two weeks is low.

“It’s between 1 and 2 percent,” he says.

But Prof Baker says border restrictions need to be reviewed.

“If we find that some countries have such intense transmission that we’re seeing a lot of imported cases from there I think we’d want to think hard about that and how to manage that risk,” he says.

He wants returnees to isolate at their homes for a week after leaving quarantine facilities.

So perhaps we will lower levels but with another tweak to the rules.

While Jacinda Ardern says that decisions will be based on expert advice and science she received increasing criticism last week over the alert level being maintained outside Auckland. Cabinet Minister and deputy PM Winston Peters broke ranks with her.

I expect she will have one eye on expert advice and one eye on the election when making the decision today.

Leave a comment

23 Comments

  1. David

     /  21st September 2020

    if the outbreak was in invercargill Auckland would be at level 1 at the moment.
    Politics is 90% at this stage.

    Reply
    • John J Harrison

       /  21st September 2020

      David, wrong !
      Ardern is only concerned about the politics which clearly governs 100% in these decisions.
      Health is secondary.
      There will be much frowning and hand flapping at 1 PM and politics will triumph with a downgrading across the country.
      The uncomfortable is that our borders remain insecure despite innumerable promises by Ardern and Bloomfield to the contrary.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  21st September 2020

        ‘The uncomfortable is that our borders remain insecure despite innumerable promises by Ardern and Bloomfield to the contrary.’

        Yet the opposition and their acolytes scream for the border to be opened up for the sake of the…economy!

        Reply
        • How many times do you have to be told that the opposition does NOT want open borders ? They DO want skilled workers and investors to be let in, subject to the same quarantine as everyone else.

          The PM is talking about opening the borders for some people now.

          Do try to keep up.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st September 2020

            There isnt enough room in quarantine even for the citizens to come back, airlines have restricted number on flights , same as Australia
            Something like 2000 highly skilled have had exemptions already

            Compared to now its ‘open borders’ under National with maybe 10x the current levels with 20,000 ‘skilled’? ( and then there will be the fruit pickers as they let it slide)
            As an aside a Brit house painter in Quenstown who was ‘locked out’ had a ‘high skill visa’ ..look it up

            Reply
            • Graedad

               /  22nd September 2020

              Duker. I agree with you. The quarantine will have to develop into a massive industry for NZ to get any advantage from opening the borders to tourism or virtually anything from the outside that requires large numbers. That not withstanding the thousands of NZrs trying to get home. The way it’s happening at present we will be isolated from the rest of the world for a long while yet.

      • Patzcuaro

         /  21st September 2020

        While humans are in charge at the border it is impossible to be 100% certain the virus won’t sneak by. All that one can expect is that when failures are identified they are remedied promptly.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st September 2020

          Most flights have no cases at all, some might have a one or a family
          Flights from India have had up to 8 people test positive. The risk to other passengers and others at the airport is very high from that.
          Some extra measure are required for these very high risk passengers maybe at home for a week and a further test ?

          Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  21st September 2020

    Auckland will be locked down by the harbour bridge failure.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  21st September 2020

      Any different from the Christchurch or Kaikoura earthquakes… 300,000 vehicles a day and this is the first one in 70 years.
      I do think there is laid back approach to getting it fixed, it should have been an urgent start on Sunday making the sections

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  21st September 2020

        It’s not on the scale of Christchurch but it may have been more predictable and will definitely affect a lot of people as long as it closes the centre lanes.

        Reply
        • One must hope that the PM and her yesmen will run out of excuses to keep the levels up and that she won’t be let to use ‘instinct’ to override ‘science and evidence’ again.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st September 2020

            ‘The Science’ never gave any ‘correct’ answers back in the beginning, there was just a level o’f choices.
            Seymour and Bridges saw the same information and said we MUST go into 4 week lockdown..they wholeheartedly supported the PM…except little old you who knows ……… cough ..very little, probably even less.

            I have given the quote before which you ignore ..because you like to mislead and tell [….]

            Reply
            • Tell what ? Your hinting is extremely badmannered; either say it outright or don’t say it. I assume that […] means ‘lies’. Have the guts to say it if you mean it. Are you falsely calling me a liar again ? If you are, say it and don’t hint it.

              Those two did not support the extensions of the lockdowns or the effect that they had on the economy.They, like the rest of us, believed the PM that the lockdown would go for four weeks…ha ha.

              The PM is on record as saying that she ignored ‘science and evidence’ in favour of ‘instinct’. Her instinct has been instrumental in making our drop in GDP one of the worst although we had one of the smallest number of cases. You can easily find both of these online. Look up ‘Ardern instinct, science and evidence.’

              And stop calling me a liar, please. I am not one and am very tired of your uncalled for, untrue personal insults.

            • Duker

               /  21st September 2020

              Well dont continue to do it if you have a problem….. you are making misleading and false statements ALL THE TIME
              What sort of person does that , again and again

              The statement from Ardern about the science not being clear way back in March was supported by Bridges and Seymour for a 4 week lockdown.
              The extension was 4 days ( thats where you start [….] your socks off again) as it was timing thing to allow preparation for level 3.

              Before we started the process the levels 1 to 4 were introduced and after level 4 there would be level 3 and level 2 etc.
              “On 21 March, Ardern introduced a country-wide alert level system to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, similar to the existing fire warning systems. There are four levels, with 1 being the least risk of infection and 4 the highest. The Alert Level was set to 2 and people over 70 years old and those with compromised immune systems were asked to stay at home.[69]…wikipedia , NZ Covid response

              Yes Bridges wanted to criticise the ‘team of 5 million’ approach and look what happened to him as led National down a hole from which he didnt surface.
              Where did anyone say level 4 was for 4 weeks and then straight back to level 1?
              “National leader, Simon Bridges says New Zealand needs to leave Covid-19 Alert Level 3 now with BusinessNZ agreeing it’s time to breathe life back into the economy.”
              https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/simon-bridges-holds-steady-leaving-level-3-but-health-experts-disagree

              Gone by lunchtime was never truer for this wally

              When we had the second lockdown Seymour again supported the lockdowns ( as stated in press releases which are common knowledge except to people like you)

          • duperez

             /  21st September 2020

            She should just go online and take pot luck, grab someones’s theory and run with that and not listen to yeswomen of course. Yours for example? Your making out it’s like some sort of game for Ardern is tiresome. Your absence of appreciation of what is involved and wilful denigration is pathetic.

            At least the grizzling will be drowning any possible most minute element in you which should say how lucky you are to be in the situation you’re in. Meaning, you can concentrate on the perpetual negativity.

            Reply
            • That’s what she seems to be doing, and we are all paying the price for it.Her instinct should NOT be let to override science and evidence. No PM’s instinct should be allowed to do this.

              I am not alone in thinking that she makes excuses not to lower the levels ! Her face today when she finally announced it after waffling on for ages was not that of someone who was glad to be bringing good news.

            • Duker

               /  21st September 2020

              The experts say different to little Miss Muffit
              “But epidemiologist, Michael Baker says the opposite.
              “I think we need more time at level three, which is quite a bit like Level 4, in that it’s making it very clear that you stay at home.”

              A call to exit Level 3 is now a big gamble for Simon Bridges – similar comments in Level 4 sparked public outrage. Even his own MPs questioned his judgement which in turn led to speculation over his leadership.
              Well we know now how Bridges gambled with the public safety and he LOST
              https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/simon-bridges-holds-steady-leaving-level-3-but-health-experts-disagree

            • duperez

               /  21st September 2020

              Oh wow! Tell us about how as well as the look on her dial you analysed the arm and hand movements and what she was wearing!🤣

  3. Sunny

     /  21st September 2020

    If people are catching the virus in quarantine (and that is the most likely explanation – the other theories the scientist himself calls rare and seems to be more in line with the frozen goods diversion theory.) then how does adding another week of quarantining with high risk travelers solve the problem.

    Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  21st September 2020

      I think it would be prudent for arrivals to be careful for at least the next week after they leave isolation, this would include having as little contact with others as possible and wearing a mask when out. It would also be prudent for their immediate household contacts to take similar precautions which would include children not attending school.

      Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  21st September 2020

    Auckland 2 NZ 1.

    Reply

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