Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Pressure goes on PM to set out future for Auckland

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As the Prime Minister prepares to unveil the vaccination rate targets for easing lockdowns, there are calls to loosen the rules for MIQ while Covid-positive people in Auckland’s outbreak are quarantining at home.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed yesterday that at least 86 positive cases were isolating at home rather than in quarantine facilities.

However, he said that was only in Auckland.Positive cases in other areas were still taken to quarantine to try to prevent the risk of spread.

That has led to calls from National and Act to bring forward plans for vaccinated travellers who test negative for Covid-19 to also be allowed to isolate at home.

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National’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said only 19 fully vaccinated travellers had tested positive for Covid in MIQ between August 23 and October 12, and only two of those were after day 8.

“The risk of vaccinated travellers spreading Covid after seven days in MIQ is miniscule. In fact, there is much more Covid in the Auckland community than there is in MIQ.”

Act leader David Seymour said it made no sense for vaccinated people coming from overseas who had negative tests to still have to go through 14 days in MIQ while Covid-positive people in the community were allowed to stay home.

National leader Judith Collins yesterday unveiled her party’s proposed plan, including an end to lockdowns and starting to reopen the borders either on December 1 or when the vaccination rate hits 85–90 per cent, whichever was earliest.

That is the same date Act believes the borders should reopen more, although some have panned it as too risky.

Collins also criticised the PM for the delay in releasing the Government’s plan, saying people needed certainty as soon as possible.

Ardern is due to set out the Government’s new system for a highly vaccinated population on Friday, and possible changes to MIQ will be revealed next week.

Hipkins said MIQ was in a state of “transition” and home isolation and shorter stays had been well signalled. Stays of 5-7 days for vaccinated travellers were in the Government’s earlier roadmap plans. However, it is unclear when that will begin.

Hipkins said people returning from overseas now would not necessarily be based in Auckland, and the Government did not want to risk introducing Covid to other regions.

Hipkins announced yesterday that senior students at Auckland and Waikato secondary schools would return to school from next Tuesday in time for exams, however there is much less certainty around when the rest of Auckland can resume their lives.

Nor is it certain whether younger students will return soon. Announcements on those from Years 1 to 10 would come on Tuesday, but Ardern said that was a much riskier group because children up to 12 years old could not yet be vaccinated.

Health director general Dr Ashley Bloomfield warns case numbers would continue to rise in Auckland in the coming days and weeks – there were 60 new cases yesterday, a drop on the 94 of the day before.

However, Bloomfield said although daily numbers would go up and down, the overall trajectory would be an increase. Cases numbers were expected to double around every 10 – 12 days and public health teams around the country were on standby.

Many of the new cases were from North Shore and New Lynn, and Bloomfield said new suburbs of interest included Bayswater, Rosedale and Redvale – where a large party was recently held.

Although 89 per cent of Auckland’s eligible population had now had at least one vaccine, Hipkins said at least 200,000 people nationwide still needed to get them to be safe.

A new “Two Shots for Summer” campaign was about to be launched to target the 16–19-year-old age cohort.

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