Advance party to where?

The Advance Party may be the opposite of an advance in New Zealand politics. Their main aim seems to be to advance as many crazy conspiracy theories as possible.

But they have attracted thousands of followers, as evidenced by an anti-Covid rally in Auckland yesterday, which defied the level 2.5 restrictions currently in place in Auckland.

RNZ: Advance Party and crowd rallies against Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns

A crowd of a few thousand packed in Auckland’s Aotea Square this afternoon, at the “National Rally for Freedom”, organised by Advance Party co-leaders, Jami Lee Ross and Billy Te Kahika.

There was little social distancing and few people in the crowd wearing masks.

When the rally was finished, the large group continued its protest down Auckland’s Queen Street before returning to Aotea Square.

There were a number of police present at the rally; they refused to comment when approached by RNZ and asked whether there were any concerns about social distancing given the size of the crowd.

In a statement to RNZ later, police said with today’s event it was “possible that attempts to enforce Alert Level restrictions would have caused tension in an otherwise peaceful protest, without being effective in managing physical distancing of participants”.

That pretty much gives any protesters a green light to do what they like regardless of lockdown laws and rules.

It is disgraceful that a current Member of Parliament be blatantly behind breaking the law, but Ross has disgraced himself a number of times already so this is just another step downwards for him. His chances of being re-elected in Botany are miniscule so he seems to be hoping Te Kahika’s popularity will get him back into Parliament.

But how popular? Several thousand at a rally is a significant number, and there will be more supporters around the country, but they would need somewhere around 150,000 votes to make the 5% threshold (last election ACT got 13,075 votes for just 0.5% and Greens got 162,443 votes for 6.27%).

Even if they made history and the threshold, their influence in Parliament would likely be small. Labour would be extremely unlikely to do a coalition or confidence and supply deal with Advance NZ, and Advance NZ would be hugely hypocritical to even attempt to work with Labour.

Somme of their prominent COVID-19 Response Policy but it is laced with highly questionable claims. Their opening paragraph:

The COVID-19 virus has led nations around the world to take radical action to prevent its spread. In New Zealand, the Labour government has adopted an approach of eradication at any cost. That strategy has failed.

They are basically saying that “nations around the world” are wrong and they are right with untested claims.

The approach here hasn’t been “at any cost”, and it has been relatively successful both health-wise and economically so far.

In the false hope of eradicating the virus, we now face Labour’s Second Wave of Lockdowns. There is no end in sight for the current lockdown or for ending COVID-19 restrictions at lower levels. Labour’s plan is for years of rolling lockdowns.

I haven’t seen Labour state anything like that. Most countries including New Zealand are hoping that a vaccine will be available in the next year or so.

As new information is learned about COVID-19, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the fatality rate of the virus is considerably lower than first predicted. In the early stages of COVID-19 entering New Zealand, fear spread with many believing mass deaths would take place.

First predictions were widely variable based on limited information and based on a range of approaches.

Predictions where that doing nothing to limit Covid, as Advance NZ seem to be promoting, would likely

Initial predictions of death have not materialised around the world, and COVID-19’s  case fatality rate is not unlike that of seasonal influenza. Flu or colds have never been eradicated, and attempts to do so have proved futile. The WHO and GAVI are predicting a similar situation for COVID-19, and it looks like we will have to learn to live with it and find ways to protect our most vulnerable without shutting down society.  (https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/could-covid-19-ever-be-eradicated)

That’s an odd claim considering what is prominent on the gavi.org home page:

#VaccinesWork

Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history with wider benefits that accrue across a lifetime.

Keep informed about the latest topics in global health, including top stories related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Also from Gavi: How COVID–19 is leading to famine and a ‘hunger pandemic’

COVID-19 has infected more than 27 million people, killing nearly 900,000 of them. As well as this devastating impact on people’s lives and health, there has been significant collateral damage from the pandemic – especially hunger and malnutrition, putting the lives of millions more at risk.

10 September 2020

That seems to be the opposite of what Advance NZ claim and promote. They also claim:

The reasonable question to ask now is – what long -term economic, social, and health costs will New Zealanders face…

That is a reasonable question to ask….

…in a futile effort to eradicate COVID-19 – a virus we now know we can manage as a nation without losing considerable freedoms?

…but it is followed by a claim that they can’t know. They don’t cite any examples anywhere in the world where Covid has been managed without losing any freedoms.

From their Policy in Brief:

Implement a risk-based approach where vulnerable citizens are protected and supported, but all others are free to continue daily life.

By segregating ‘vulnerable citizens’ from ‘all others’? That doesn’t sound like freedom for either group.

Their website tries to sound reasonable and considered but is littered with highly questionable claims and has major flaws in thinking.

Advance NZ is unlikely to make the MMP cut, and even if they did they would unlikely have much if any influence on policy.

But by promoting defiance of lockdown rules they are actually putting the rest of us at risk of more spread of Covid, and more lockdowns.

“The Govt was afraid of the political backlash if it left Auckland in lockdown”

It looked to me like the Government was something like “afraid of the political backlash if it left Auckland in lockdown”, and appeasing Auckland is part of the reason for keeping the rest of the country in level 2 when there is no Covid cases anywhere else apart from a handful in Tokoroa.

But I don’t think the Government “is now letting the rest of NZ do it’s dirty work for it”.

Response from the rest of the country has been mixed.

Stuff: Auckland visitors welcomed back to Queenstown and Christchurch

Queenstown businesses say they are thrilled to welcome Auckland visitors back to the region after a quiet few weeks.

Air New Zealand had seven direct flights scheduled to land in Queenstown on Monday bringing thousands of visitors to the region.

Aucklanders rushed to book holidays in the resort following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that level-three lockdown, which prevented domestic travel from the city, would be lifted on Monday.

Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult said the arrival of Aucklanders back in Queenstown was fantastic, from an economic point of view.

“Auckland is our largest single market by a country mile, and we definitely need to keep our economy going as hard as we can.

“It’s great to see them here,” he said.

Some Aucklanders headed for Christchurch where Marissa Palmer, 34, said a small number of people were not following social distancing rules at Auckland Airport.

“They’re just simple rules … it’s not rocket science,” she said.

Simple rules? I’m not clear on what the current rules are.

Restrictions of people from Auckland like above Taupo running race example are obviously happening, and there are a lot of concerns about a surge in internal travel from Auckland around the country.

Actually Jacinda Ardern has asked Aucklanders not to attend mass gatherings elsewhere in the country, but in some cases this seems to be being ignored.

NZH: Aucklanders heading to Queenstown for tech conference

A conference being held in Queenstown this week includes at least one Aucklander as a guest, despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for people from the city to avoid mass gatherings.

It comes amid concern of Covid-19 spreading from Auckland, and with memories fresh of a significant cluster — linked to 39 cases — emerging from the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown in March.

The Morgo conference is being held at the Heritage Hotel on Thursday and Friday.

Having Aucklanders attending the conference appears to directly contravene Ardern’s plea on Sunday calling for people from the city to avoid mass gatherings.

“Please don’t attend a mass gathering, even if it is not in Auckland,” she said.

NZH: Aucklanders shouldn’t be going to Queenstown for conferences – Chris Hipkins

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he is not comfortable with Aucklanders travelling to conferences in Queenstown and has called on the city’s residents to “do the right thing”.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he is not comfortable with Aucklanders travelling to conferences in Queenstown and has called on the city’s residents to “do the right thing”.

“We are asking Aucklanders to continue to take their alert level restrictions with them.”

Aren’t we more or less at the same alert level throughout New Zealand now?

It’s quite confusing with all of the country at alert level 2 but with some special sub-rules for Auckland.

The alert level restrictions in Auckland meant people should not be attending gatherings of more than 10 people in the city, he said.

“So if Aucklanders are travelling to other parts of the country the same rules should apply.”

The Government was asking for “goodwill” from Aucklanders, he said.

“We are asking for Aucklanders to play their part as they have done over the last three weeks in keeping the country safe.

“There is never going to be a 100 per cent enforceable system when it comes to these types of restrictions so we are asking people to do the right thing.”

It has been shown already that people bending and breaking rules will happen, so it’s a concern if the Government is relying on appeals to the public rather than rules.

This looks messy.

Should Auckland come down to level 2 tomorrow?

Covid cases continue to be reported in Auckland with 13 new cases yesterday, about half of those from community transmission. Should Auckland lower to level 2 as planned at midnight?

From a health perspective this must be a risk.

From a political perspective with an election coming up in October it may be more of a risk not to allow the level to drop.

The Ministry of Health is pushing for more testing in South and West Auckland in particular:

Say yes to the test

Widespread testing is a critical part of our COVID-19 elimination strategy. COVID-19 tests are free and should be easy to access for everyone. We have more than 1,100 testing sites nationwide, including at most GPs.

If you’re in South or West Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms, please have a test.

UPDATE: this is apparently incorrect and all people in South and West Auckland are not encouraged to have a test. There has been a lot of criticism of this and the poor communication from the Ministry of Health and Ardern in correcting it.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, wherever you are, please call Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor immediately and have a test.

Testing sites will be open this weekend, right across the country – this includes GPs and community-based assessment centres. 

Pop-up testing sites continue to move around Auckland communities to ensure nearby, easy and equitable access to testing, particularly for Māori and for Pacific peoples. 

With “Māori and for Pacific peoples” at greater risk at the moment it’s a big call for the Government to relax restrictions.

There are currently 137 active cases, with 11 people in hospital and three in intensive care.

The big concern right now should be that the numbers of new cases have been persistent for two weeks.

New confirmed and probable cases over time

So the current outbreak in Auckland looks barely under control. Relaxing restrictions to level 2 must risk this getting out of control.

A delay and hope Covid decision

Any decisions dealing with Covid are difficult for the Government. They are committed to keeping Covid case numbers as low as possible, but also have to consider the social and economic implications of any decisions. With wage subsidies due to end soon there are increasing warnings a business and job crunch coming.

And being politicians the election, recently delayed until October 19, is an important factor for them.

The Government committed themselves to making a decision on the current outbreak and lockdowns by yesterday, and they sort of made a decision – delaying reducing the level 3 lockdown in Auckland until the end of the week.

With new community cases every day still this looks to me like a wait and hope decision – they will be hoping that things improve enough over the next few days to justify dropping Auckland to the significantly less restrictive level 2. If community cases continue to increase through this week the Government will have to seriously consider extending the current lockdown levels.

And the decision to not lower the level 2 lockdown in the rest of the country, despite no cases outside Auckland, appears to reflect the practical difficulties in having regional differences in lockdown levels. Lowering Auckland to level 2 will mean the roadblocks enclosing the city will no longer be needed there, but having a different lockdown level beyond the city would be difficult to manage.

Some people are happy to see the Government tend towards caution to minimise the chances of community transmission spreading beyond Auckland.

Health at any cost is preferred by some, especially those who are older, or are medically more vulnerable, and also those who don’t rely on working for a living or who have secure jobs.

But a growing number of people will be disappointed or annoyed at ongoing limits to their lifestyles.

The Government has to try to balance these conflicting situations.

They also continue to tweak the lockdown rules. After months of pressure they have introduced mandatory mask wearing for anyone using public transport. This change is in response to people catching Covid while using buses.

There is already further pressure to also require mask wearing in other situations of public gatherings, especially in bars and cafes, but there are obvious issues with requiring the wearing of masks where people eat and drink.

There are indications from the Director-General of Health that face mask wearing may be required more to try to avoid going to higher lockdown levels.

There are no easy decisions with Covid.

For the rest of the week we basically have to wait and see whether the current plan to reduce Auckland to level 2 next Monday can go ahead or not.

This means we continue to live with significant uncertainties. That is something we are likely to have to contend with for months, if not a year or two.

Lockdowns essential for suppressing Covid but not long term solution

Returning to Covid lockdowns in New Zealand, in particular in Auckland, has meant a return to arguments over whether they are effective or a sustainable means of reducing deaths and long term health problems inflicted by the virus.

People lacking in expertise pushing for so-called ‘herd immunity’ using flawed analysis based on limited data, even if well intentioned, adds to a lot of misinformation.

But while lockdowns are a short term means of preventing large scale infections and deaths, and by preventing barely adequate at the best of times health systems from becoming overloaded. But:

“It is clear that this is not seasonal flu.”

“No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine.”

Political pundits like Matthew Hooton are not knowledgeable enough about viruses to ton use their usual media ‘opinion’ advocacy to advise us what is the best approach to dealing with Covid.

In Hooton’s latest “armchair epidemiological reckons, I emphasised that he does not have the skills to analyse epidemiological data…he unfortunately makes rookie mistakes again.”

Dr Jin Russell takes issue with the opinion column by Hooton. This gives more insight into dealing with the pandemic than a political pusher.

In my last set of tweets on @MatthewHootonNZ‘s armchair epidemiological reckons, I emphasised that he does not have the skills to analyse epidemiological data. In his latest Herald piece, he unfortunately makes rookie mistakes again.

He includes a table of the 1330 covid cases in NZ; and describes a hospitalisation rate of 4%; with no deaths under 60 years; and “only” a 30% chance of dying in the 80+ group.

I think that most people would see a one in three chance of people over 80 dying from Covid as a very good reason to try to minimise it’s spread. Quarantining all the elderly only is not a viable option, nor i think socially acceptable, nor practical.

The gist is he’s minimising the risk of covid based on NZ MOH data; but this is really flawed.

Flawed in two ways:

1. The only variable he is taking into account in his mortality projection appears to be Age; and

2. Because he accounts only for mortality and not for morbidity associated with Covid-19. Let’s explore these.

Let’s explore these.

1. The only risk factor he highlights is Age. Yes, increasing age increases risk of mortality from covid, as we can see even from our small NZ sample. But that’s not the only risk factor for dying from covid.

This July paper published in Nature analysed other risk factors – Factors associated with COVID-19-related death using OpenSAFELY

Comorbidities such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, and others are known to correlate with increased risk of mortality from covid. Let’s look at these risk factors for the NZ population.

Diabetes: We have very high numbers of people with diabetes in NZ. An estimated 200,000 people in NZ have diabetes; with the prevalence in Māori & Pacific persons three times higher than NZ Europeans.
– MOH: About diabetes

Obesity: New Zealand has the 3rd highest obesity rate amongst adults in the OECD, with 1 in 3 adult NZers obese, and 1 in 10 children. Once again, this is disproportionately found amongst deprived communities; Māori and Pacific families.

Asthma: NZ has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world; the Asthma Foundation estimates 597,000 NZers take medication for asthma (1 in 8 adults, higher for children) with a very high burden of respiratory admissions amongst children amongst deprived families.

The Nature paper also found that people of “Black” and “South Asian” ethnicity were at increased risk of mortality. It’s important to realise that so far our current NZ covid cases are overwhelmingly amongst Europeans.
– see Stats NZ: COVID-19 data portal

In epidemiological terms, we would refer to our NZ dataset of a miserly 1665 cases (cases! deaths only 22) to be a “biased” sample; with a hopelessly small sample size. In other words, we are unable to draw any accurate predictions on how covid would impact our population from the MOH data we have.

We can’t look at our MOH data and make inferences that the virus would have this many in hospital, this many dead or chronically affected, etc, as the sample is too small, and not representative of how covid impacts populations as a whole

This is why review of the literature, and understanding of other factors is so important.

It’s not just deaths that are a problem. There are serious long term health implications for people who get Covid.

Let’s talk about morbidity from covid – what complications can it cause?

A paper published in Nature Medicine describes non-pulmonary complications from Covid-19. If it doesn’t get you in the lungs, how does it harm you? Amongst those hospitalised or seriously unwell, 30% had acute cardiac muscle injury, up to 30% acute kidney injury, 6% stroke, up to 52% signs of liver injury, 8-9% confusion or impaired consciousness.

figure1

See Nature Extrapulmonary manifestations of COVID-19


It is clear that this is not seasonal flu.

On top of that, there is increasing evidence of a post-covid syndrome, with chronic breathlessness and fatigue.

So far, we have understood that we have a very high burden of comorbidities that would make NZers more likely to die or do poorly compared to other countries, and that it would disproportionately affect our Māori, Pasific and South Asian communities. What about other factors?

Hooton doesn’t discuss this at all – a really, really important variable to consider – our healthcare capacity. In March, prior to lockdown, NZ had a total of 153 ICU beds.
RNZ (March 2020) – 153 intensive care beds in country – survey

And, of those 153 beds, just to drive the point home, only 24 were at Auckland City Hospital. Of the 24 ICU beds at our country’s largest hospital, only 6 were isolation beds. Those beds are not empty all the time, they run close to capacity.

So…we had to lockdown.

The number of ICU beds was supposed to be tripled – RNZ (May 2020) ICU beds increase as ministry tries to triple capacity

I’m not sure if that has happened yet, but even if we had the target 358 beds, that wouldn’t even get us close to the figure we would need if things got out of hand.

Our healthcare workforce is VERY thin and PPE stocks are in short supply internationally. I work in paediatrics. During Level 4 lockdown, there were plans to completely reorganise health services to treat covid patients. Thank goodness we didn’t need to go there.

To sum up – Hooton has a LONG way to go to draw any valid conclusions from our MOH data on covid. To form great public health policy, you need more skills than this. You need local understanding of our inequities, health care capacity, and distribution of comorbidities.

You need to be informed by the literature, and come to considered judgements. This is very sloppy opining, what a shame he didn’t contact some of the many very lovely, very experienced epidemiologists and infectious disease experts within his own institution.

As well as business and economic experts.

Covid is too serious and too complex for the pundit political pusher approach.


See also, from WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 21 August 2020

Globally, there are now more than 22 million reported cases of COVID-19, and 780,000 deaths.

But it’s not just the numbers of cases and deaths that matter. In many countries, the number of patients who need hospitalization and advanced care remains high, putting huge pressure on health systems and affecting the provision of services for other health needs.

Several countries around the world are now experiencing fresh outbreaks after a long period with little or no transmission.

These countries are a cautionary tale for those that are now seeing a downward trend in cases.

Progress does not mean victory.

The fact remains that most people remain susceptible to this virus.

That’s why it’s vital that countries are able to quickly identify and prevent clusters, to prevent community transmission and the possibility of new restrictions.

No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine.

A vaccine will be a vital tool, and we hope that we will have one as soon as possible.

But there’s no guarantee that we will, and even if we do have a vaccine, it won’t end the pandemic on its own.

We must all learn to control and manage this virus using the tools we have now, and to make the adjustments to our daily lives that are needed to keep ourselves and each other safe.

So-called lockdowns enabled many countries to suppress transmission and take the pressure off their health systems.

But lockdowns are not a long-term solution for any country.

We do not need to choose between lives and livelihoods, or between health and the economy. That’s a false choice.

On the contrary, the pandemic is a reminder that health and the economy are inseparable.

But there doesn’t seem too be many experts on both epidemiology and economic matters.

Covid lockdown levels to remain for 12 more days

The official announcement:

14 August 2020

Help stop the spread.

Auckland remains at Level 3,
rest of the country at Level 2

The Government has announced that current alert levels will remain in place until at least 26 August.

The Prime Minister said the decision was based on a range of considerations, including the results of contract tracing, testing rates and results, genome sequencing, and other information gathering since the resurgence of the virus.

The Government is also making changes to the wage subsidy scheme, the leave support scheme and the mortgage deferral scheme

The details will be finalised next week, but the changes will be nationwide and will cover the period of time that level 3 restrictions are in place.

You can watch the livestream of the media conference here.

Travelling to and from Auckland is still restricted

It’s important we limit non-essential travel to restrict the spread of Covid-19. You can travel into, out of, or through Auckland if you are returning to your primary residence. Not to go to a bach or holiday home.

There are limited exemptions for some people to travel. This includes people are who are moving freight, and a range of government workers.

Police are enforcing this at road checkpoints around Auckland.

The restrictions on flying into and out of Auckland are the same as driving in our out.

Outside Auckland, people can still travel so long as they do it safely and contact trace.

Getting the right information matters

Beware of misinformation on social media and other sources. Only share information from official sources. Misinformation works against us at a time when we need to work together to beat the virus. Here’s where you can go to find accurate and timely information:

https://covid19.govt.nz/

Try and wear a face covering when out of the house

The Ministry of Health is encouraging the use of face coverings as an additional tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19, as well as maintaining those other very important hygiene measures like physical distancing and handwashing.

A face covering is most important in closed public spaces where it’s difficult to keep physical distancing, such as supermarkets and public transport. 

Remember, face coverings can be homemade. You can also use a bandana or scarf that fully covers your mouth and nose.

Over one million New Zealanders have the NZ COVID Tracer app

The latest surge in New Zealanders downloading the NZ COVID Tracer app has taken it over the 1 million mark of registered users.

Well done New Zealand. Do your bit. Start using it today.

The NZ COVID Tracer app gives us a strong head start in responding. It is not enough to rely on your memory or personal records.

All businesses will need to display a QR code for the NZ COVID Trader app by 11:59am on 19 August. It is easy for businesses to download a QR code for their business using a fast new process.

If you need help generating your QR code posters or have questions or feedback about NZ COVID Tracer:

Catching the virus by food is unlikely

The risk of Covid-19 transmission via food packaging is very unlikely and New Zealand Food Safety do not recommend disinfecting food products. 

Coronaviruses cannot grow in food. They need a host (animal or human) to grow in. Cooking for at least 30 minutes at 60°C will kill the virus.

Coronaviruses are most commonly passed between animals and people and from person-to-person contact.

Resources

Information for Pacific peoples.

Useful posters for your workplace or community.

Information in sign language and easy read formats.

Find out what support is available for individuals, whānau, foreign nationals, and businesses

Translations of essential information are available in 16 different languages on the COVID-19 website.

Up-to-date Alert Level information is on the COVID-19 website.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020 outlines current restrictions and requirements.

Contact information

Call Healthline if you have symptoms 0800 358 5453

Need to talk? Call or text 1737

Report breaches of self-isolation 105.police.govt.nz

Get the latest information on our website or Facebook


Govt to protect jobs and businesses with extra support

  • In-principle decision to extend wage subsidy to support businesses and protect jobs
  • Support will be nationwide in recognition of Auckland’s position in NZ economy and the impact of Level 2
  • Mortgage deferral scheme to be extended to support households

Announcement at 5:30 pm on Covid lockdowns

Cabinet will meet at 3 pm today to consider the latest information regarding this week’s Covid outbreak and will make a decision on whether lockdowns will continue or be lifted.

Then at 5:30 pm the prime Minister will make an announcement advising us what we will be allowed to do this weekend and in the weeks ahead.

Currently Auckland is in level 3 lockdown, and the rest of the country is in level 2 lockdown.

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

After 102 days we have our first cases of Covid-19 outside of a Managed Isolation or Quarantine facility in New Zealand.

Actually that’s inaccurate. It is obvious we had community cases before the 100 days was up, it just wasn’t detected and announced until 102 days.

While we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario, we have also planned and prepared for it.

We have a resurgence plan that we will now activate.

At this stage, we have not yet been able to determine the source of the case. There is no immediate link to an MIQ facility that we are yet aware of, or to border staff.

Therefore we need to take a much more precautionary approach until we can find the source and access the risk of wider spread.

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned from overseas is the need to go hard and go early to stamp out flare ups to avoid the risk of wider outbreak.

As disruptive as it is, a strong and rapid health response remains the best long term economic response.

Ardern also said that she expects case numbers to rise before things improve.

This all suggests that extending the lockdowns if not increasing the lockdown levels looks likely, in Auckland at least.

On 15 July Ardern announced Next steps in COVID response

Experts tell us that even with the best precautions possible, the chances of the virus passing from a surface, or contact with someone who is a carrier are high.

We must prepare now for that eventuality and have a plan at the ready in the event that it does.

The first thing we need to do is continue to ensure our border and our managed isolation facilities stay as tight as they can be.

Not tight enough as this week has shown.

The first thing to note is that the Government’s strategy for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic remains elimination. That has not and will not change.

…So in the event of new community cases we would move immediately to implement our “Stamp it Out” approach again.

So drastic lockdowns can be expected.

But this time it could be on a regional basis.

Let me run through what each scenario might look like.

First a contained case or cases within a community.

We would be looking at applying strong restrictions but only applied locally in a neighbourhood, town or city to contain the virus and stopping it spread.

We would likely remain at Alert Level 1 nationally.

The local measures to contain the case would involve rapid contact tracing and isolation of cases and their contacts, scaled up and targeted testing of people connected to the case, such as workmates, those they live with or those in their neighbourhood.

The point with this scenario is we would look at act hard and fast, but local in an attempt to ring fence the virus. 

The second scenario is a large cluster within a region.

Here, a significant increase in testing would be the priority. We would look to undertake much wider community testing, on top of testing any contacts or potential contact of those with the virus. This could look like it did in Victoria where health staff went door to door to test people in affected areas.

We would also take steps to stop the spread to other parts of the country so a regional shift in Alert Level would likely be applied that restricted travel. This would mean travel in or out of the city, town or region could be stopped, people in that place asked to work from home, and local restrictions on gatherings implemented.

The aim here is to contain the spread away from other areas to avoid the whole country having to put in place restrictions so we can remain at Alert Level 1 nationally, depending on the evidence of risk of spread outside the region.

The final scenario is if multiple clusters, spread nationally.

In this scenario we would most likely apply a nationwide increase in Alert Level to stop transmission.

With the news this morning of cases around Auckland I think we will be at the second scenario unless there are positive cases found outside Auckland.

From yesterday’s media conference:

Dr Bloomfield says at this stage it is not thought necessary to expand restrictions, despite the movements of positive cases to Waikato, Rotorua and Taupō.

“At this point in time it seems very very clear that the focus of the outbreak is in Auckland.”

So currently (before today’s news becomes known) it looks likely Auckland will stay at level 3 lockdown at least, probably for weeks.

If no cases are found outside Auckland the rest of the country may be able to remain in level 2, or possible drop back to level 1 but I suspect that is unlikely.

If cases are found in Waikato, Taupo or Rotorua where people now tested positive have visited in the weekend than the Auckland lockdown may me widened to central North island or even the North Island.

And there is a possibility that people exposed to Covid have travelled around the country and spread it more widely.

We will find out later today what we can do in the weekend, but things are changing quickly so that could be reviewed again soon.

Uncertain times are back.


From The Bulletin (The Spinoff):

Could a full-blown level four lockdown happen? It exists as an option that can be used if necessary, but at this stage seems unlikely. That’s based on comments from finance minister Grant Robertson, who last night told Three show The Project “we’ve got no plans to go to level 4 at this stage. As long as everyone does the right thing in Auckland, at level 3 and around the rest of the country in level 2, then we should be able to get on top of this outbreak.”

Covid cases in Mangere and North Shore schools

The Ministry of Health is failing to inform people in a timely way on places where covid cases have been detected and where covid positive people have visited. Media keep publishing details well ahead of official information releases.

This happened with the initial covid outbreak that affected a family and two work places in Auckland, and also with places some affected family members visited in Rotorua and Taupo.

The MoH should at least be posting details online as soon as it is confirmed, and not be waiting until the next daily media conference.

This morning from NZ Herald: North Shore primary school student positive, Noel Leemings closed

The Covid risk has extended to Auckland’s North Shore after a primary school student tested positive, sending their school into lockdown.

Two Noel Leeming stores on the North Shore have also been told someone who tested positive had visited over the weekend.

A further two schools in Māngere East have confirmed cases of the virus, as does Auckland’s Manukau Institute of Technology.

It is unclear if the cases are linked to the 17 confirmed cases of community transmission or new ones.

We will have to wait until either a Minister or Ashley Bloomfield does a media interview, or until the 1 pm media conference, to find out officially whether these are additional cases or not.

A student at Glamorgan School in Torbay has tested positive, Auckland Regional Public Health said in a letter that has gone out to parents last night.

The child was last at school on Tuesday but has now gone into quarantine at home.

The child’s family are also self-isolating.

That sounds like it is an additional case. It is important to know if it is connected to the South Auckland cluster.

“There will be a great deal of concern in the school community, but the child did not have the symptoms while at school,” the letter said.

“This means there is a lower risk of the illness having been passed to other students.”

There’s a great deal of concern around the country. Not having symptoms does not mean they weren’t Covid positive and potentially spreading the virus.

Meanwhile, Warehouse Group staff have been told someone who tested positive had visited two Noel Leeming stores on the weekend.

Auckland’s Albany and Wairau Park click and collect sites were closed on Thursday and staff were asked to stay home at the request of management.

One person with Covid or connected to Covid cases can have a major impact on businesses and on many staff and customers.

Auckland public health officials said Southern Cross Campus and Taeaofou I Puaseisei Preschool in Mangere East have been closed after cases were confirmed there.

So that’s the third school/preschool with cases.

The MIT student, who was studying in TechPark’s general engineering area based at South Campus, Ōtara, was not on campus while they were infectious, students were told.

The student is in self-isolation and will not be attending classes until they have recovered from the virus.

Meanwhile MIT campus remains closed under level 3 restrictions.

This is sounding omninous, the spread of Covid seems to be widespread around Auckland.

Director general of Health Ashley Bloomfield said 17 of the total 36 active cases in New Zealand were linked to the new outbreak.

“Given that all these cases are linked, we are treating them as a cluster.”

The new cases include other children. One is a girl aged 1 to 4 while the other is a boy between the ages of 5 and 9. Another girl who tested positive is aged between 10 and 14, while a teenage male (age from 15-19) is among the new cases.

That was from yesterday. We shouldn’t have to wait until 1 pm today to get more details.

These locations involved with cases must have been known by the MoH yesterday, but they haven’t posted any details on their website or via Twitter since the 1 pm media conference yesterday. This laxity in keeping the public informed must be rectified.

The one positive from this news is that as far as we know the Covid outbreak is contained within the Auckland area.

Cabinet will meet today and announce a decision on Covid alert levels at 5:30 pm this afternoon. That doesn’t give us much time to know what we can do in the weekend. Like many people I have plans on hold pending the decision.

It looks like Auckland at least will remain on level 3 for longer, probably weeks.

The rest of us are left hoping that Covid hasn’t spread more widely, and that the rest of the country (or at least the South Island) is reprieved from more serious lockdowns.

https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/14-08-2020/live-updates-august-14-todays-the-day-will-auckland-stay-in-lockdown/

Questions on Covid announcement and lockdowns

So we are back in Covid-19 level 3 lockdown in Auckland and level 2 everywhere else.

I get that the Government and Ministry of Health are committed to try to stop any community spread of Covid and are erring on the side of caution, but there are questions I think we deserve answers to.

Jacinda Ardern said we must take a “precautionary” approach as no origin had been found, or link to isolation facilities or people who work at the border.

But how much caution is appropriate, given the substantial disruption the alert level increases impose?

An ‘urgent’ media conference was called last night at 9:15 pm, but when was the positive Covid test first known about? One person was tested twice, and then their family was tested. the first test result at least must have been known by yesterday’s daily report at 1 pm.

The first case was a person is in their 50s who lives in South Auckland. They have returned two positive results. They have no history of international travel.

Six family members who reside in the same household have been tested. Three returned positive results, three negative.

Ardern says she was first notified at 4pm yesterday. The first positive test result at least must have been known well before then. So why was she only notified then (if she is being honest with us)?

It looks like the public testing of Ashley Bloomfield at 1 pm may have been priming the population for an increase in testing. I suspect he must have known at that stage that there were new cases, or at least one new case.

if urgent action was justified why was the urgent announcement not until 9:15 (actually about 9:25) last night?

if urgent action was justified why have the lockdowns been delayed until midday today? The horse could have already bolted by then.

Auckland going to level 3 for two and a half days may be fair enough. But why does the rest of the country have to be affected? I wonder if this is being used as a sort of a drill.

Pretty much no one wants Covcid spreading here again, so drastic action may be justified to try to contain it, but I think the Government may find it harder to get public support and compliance if the announcements look to be too PR staged.

Overreactions and claiming urgency when news has been delayed to suit packaged announcements run the risk of annoying people.

I don’t want Covid to spread here, but I don’t want to be played by the authorities.

And Ardern will have to be very careful with how she manages this through the election campaign. her first priority is to keep the country as safe as reasonably possible but also as unrestricted as possible.

It would suit Labour if Ardern keeps in the media spotlight with Covid announcements while other parties are restricted from campaigning. She isn’t the only one involved in decision making, the non-political Ministry of Health are presumably making recommendations at least.

It will be challenging for Ardern to manage perceptions. If she oversteps there could be a public and voter backlashes.

But there are also challenges for her political opponents.

There have been a range of reactions to that. During what has been labelled ‘the Covid campaign’ this is also very political.

Why is the Auckland lockdown only for two and a half days? A 14 day minimum has been standard until now to make sure that Covid has been detected.

NZ First bottom lines begin – moving Auckland’s port

NZ First seems to have a bottomless pit of bottom lines in election campaigns.

Last election: The comprehensive list of Winston Peters’ bottom lines

I think this is the first one this campaign: