AUCKLAND COVID CASE LATEST
• New Zealand is going into level 4 lockdown for 3 days from 11.59pm tonight. Auckland and Coromandel will be in level 4 for 7 days
• A 58-year-old Devonport man tested positive today after visiting a GP yesterday. He was infectious from August 12
• The man, who isn’t vaccinated, and his wife travelled to Coromandel over the weekend. His wife is fully vaccinated
• There is no obvious link to the border at this stage
• While results of genome testing won’t be back until tomorrow it is being treated as a Delta case
• There are 23 locations of interest, 10 in Auckland and 13 in Coromandel
• Testing centres open until 8pm on Tuesday
• Aucklanders rush to supermarkets, motorways clogged – people told they do not need to panic
Around 70-80 people were in a Coromandel bar on each night a positive Covid case visited at the weekend, the bar says.
The case is a 58-year-old Devonport man – he and his wife travelled to Coromandel township on Friday and stayed for the weekend.
The pair visited Star and Garter Bar in Coromandel township for an hour on Friday night, from 6.39pm to 7.40pm, and again from 7.11pm to 9pm on Saturday night, while the All Blacks-Australia test was playing on television.
Star and Garter Hotel manager Mariya Kravchenko said the bistro pub was quite busy on on Friday and Saturday, guessing there would have been about 70 to 80 people on each night, especially on Saturday for the rugby test.
She said the hotel closed just before 6pm tonight, saying staff had been told the follow the guidelines and get a Covid test.
Kravchenko said she wasn’t working when the case visited over the weekend, however she had been working alongside other staff who were.
She hoped visitors had been scanning in.
“Everyone just has to take care of themselves. We should all have been doing everything property like scanning in.”
Owner of Umu Cafe Coromandel Josephine Fraser says she received a call from the Health Ministry at about 5 o’clock saying they had been identified as a location of interest.
She said it was a shock but they will “get on and get it sorted”.
All cafe staff will have to get tested and self-isolate, she said, rushing to empty out the cafe kitchen when the Herald called.
“I need to go now. I need to get rid of all the food, empty the stuff, organise people to come in and spray.”
Karam Singh is the manager of the BP Gas Station on Tiki Road, Coromandel, and says they are now gearing up to do a deep clean of the premises tonight.
The BP station is a location of interest in the latest Covid-19 outbreak, after the infected 58-year-old entered the service station from 9:30-9:40 on August 14.
Singh said the Ministry of Health has been in touch with them and the sole staff member working that day is at home isolating now.
“There was only one person who was working at that time,” Singh said.
“We are checking everything, we will follow all the procedures of what we have to do.
“We are alright at the moment. It’s a big thing, but we are following all the procedures. We are checking our cameras to see who was there. We’ll do our deep clean and everything we can do to stay on top of it.”
Singh said they are checking their rosters to see if the staff member has been working since August 14.
“I think he was just covering for someone on that day – he normally doesn’t work. He was just covering,” Singh said.
Singh says it was very difficult to remember specific customers but they are now thoroughly checking their store cameras for people who passed through on August 14.
“There are many people who come to the gas station, there are so many old people who come to the gas station. We can’t remember each person. But we’ll check the cameras to see what time they came in, now that we have a proper time frame.
“And we will double check with the staff member who was working at that time. We already told him to isolate, he’s isolating from today onwards.”
“We are with the community, you know it is a problem for all of us. So we’ll do our part to be safe and strong.”
The man is considered to have become infectious on August 12. He is not vaccinated, but his wife is fully vaccinated and has tested negative.
The man has a small number for workplace contacts, and has been using the Covid Tracer app.
Auckland and Coromandel will go into level 4 lockdown for seven days – and the rest of the country for three days after a positive case of Covid-19 was discovered in Auckland today.
The news has sparked a run on supermarkets – but health experts are saying there is no need for people to panic-buy. Police will be increasing their visibility at supermarkets to reinforce the message people need to stay calm.
Why the Auckland community case could trigger a swift move to lockdown
What to do if you’re in Auckland
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the positive case could not be confirmed as the Delta until genome sequencing was confirmed tomorrow, but every recent MIQ case has been Delta.
“While we cannot confirm it yet, we need to assume our case will be too.”
She said that has shaped this evening’s decisions.
“We have planned for this eventuality.”
Ardern said the Delta variant is potentially twice as infectious and more liable to cause severe illness.
“We are one of the last country’s in the world to have the Delta variant in our community. This has given us the chance to learn from others.”
She said Delta was a “game-changer” and there needed to be a rapid response to stop the spread.
“We only get one chance.”
The following days will be looking for undetected cases, she said.
“We’ve seen the dire consequences of taking too long to act in other countries, not least our neighbours.”
It has been a year since level 4 has been used in New Zealand, and it meant staying home.
She said physical distancing was even more important given how easily Delta can be transmitted in the air.
The New Zealand dollar dropped by just over half a U.S. cent to US69.65c after the news of Covid-19 case was announced.
The Prime Minister was first advised of the case at about 1pm.
In a statement, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said it’s incredibly disappointing that a positive case of Covid-19 has been detected in the community.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG
“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,” he said.
“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.
“I am confident that Aucklanders will understand what needs to be done and will also act accordingly,” he says.
“Wear a mask on public transport and in places where you can’t maintain social distance, wash your hands regularly, and use the NZ Covid Tracer app.”
Goff said the country had been fortunate that for 169 days there has been no transmission of the virus in the community.
“However, as we have witnessed across the Tasman, the emergence of a case here is not surprising.
“What we need to do now is take every step necessary to stop the spread of the virus,” Goff said.
Contact tracing interviews are being conducted by the Auckland Regional Public Health unit.
“The Auckland Regional Public Health unit is undertaking interviews with the case for contact tracing purposes. 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 this afternoon or who cannot socially distance in public spaces should wear a mask as a precaution,” the ministry said in a statement.
“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.”
The Ministry of Health reminded people to get tested if they develop any symptoms and to stay home from work if feeling unwell.
Consumers are reporting supermarkets in Auckland are busy, with one on the inner North Shore already having to open all checkouts.
New World Birkenhead Grocery Manager Thilak said he noticed an increase in customers in the past half hour.
He said all the checkouts are open and there are long queues.
Thilak said there’s no need to panic as there’s lots of stock for everyone.
Foodstuffs NZ corporate affairs head Antoinette Laird said:
“We know the news of a potential lockdown is unsettling but rest assured our stores have plenty of groceries on the shelves. And fortunately, our North 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.
“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.”
Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s General Manager Health and Safety, asked customers to stay calm while they prepared stores for a change in alert levels.
“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.
“We’d ask customers to wear a mask when you’re shopping in our stores as an extra precaution, and use the contact tracing app as you come in.
“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.”
Auckland Transport is reminding all commuters that face masks must be worn on public transport.
Everyone 12 years and older legally must wear a face covering on public transport at all Alert Levels.
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.
National Party leader Judith Collins said the case was “obviously very concerning for Aucklanders”.
She urged people to use the Covid tracing app and called on the Government to ensure the vaccine rollout continued regardless of any change in alert level.
Collins has not been contacted by the Prime Minister with details of the latest case.
“If it’s level 4 people will be saying, ‘how do we get our vaccinations,’ hopefully they will be able to.
“The fact we are even talking about level 4 lockdown shows the importance of vaccinations.”
'Assume you've been exposed' – Expert
University of Auckland Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy said the next 12-24 hours were critical in identifying what links this case has.
“If you’re in Auckland, act like you have been exposed, make sure you wear a mask home on the bus tonight and if you’ve got any symptoms, make sure you get yourself a test, but for now we really do need to wait to see what information comes to light.”
If a direct link to the border could be found, Hendy said an alert level shift might be avoided, but he did admit the chances of it being the Delta variant were high, given it was the globally dominant strain and it was the most common variant presenting at the border.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said people should show initiative by donning face masks in all indoor public settings, and avoid rushing the supermarkets.
“There should be enough for everyone. The nation hasn’t suddenly got mass diarrhoea.”
“Anyone living in Auckland has to assume it will be the focus of investigation and control of this outbreak,” Baker said.
Baker said it was important for people who might have recently received one or even two vaccine doses to be vigilant.
“They just need to behave as if they’re still vulnerable. The vaccine’s good. It’s not perfect.”
Baker, speaking to Newstalk ZB, said he was very disappointed by the news of a positive case.
He said best case scenario, the case was clearly linked to the border or managed isolation.
“If there is no link to the border, you have to assume there are other cases in the community that we don’t know about.”
Baker said Kiwis needed to plan for what the Government had outlined what would happen should a case of the Delta variant be found in the community – a snap lockdown.
“We know that’s the winning formula…it’s worked against the Delta variant in other countries.
“I think the message now with the Delta variant is that we have to take it very seriously and we do have to plan for the worst, unfortunately.”
University of Auckland associate professor Dr Siouxsie Wiles reiterated the message of staying calm while the case was investigated and to adhere to public health measures.
“The onus is on us to be making sure we are doing all of the things that can be either stopping us being part of a transmission chain or making sure that if we have been exposed, we can be protected really easily.”
Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Wiles said essential practices included scanning Covid QR codes, wearing a mask in public and getting tested if people had symptoms.
Wiles said a lockdown was possible if the case was infected with the Delta variant, but she was reassured Kiwis would be able to adjust.
The Prime Minister’s office has also urged people to follow the following public health guidelines:
• Stay home if you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested.
• Keep on scanning QR codes
• Wear a face covering on public transport and when you can’t keep 2 metre distance from others.
• Practice good hygiene – wash hands often.
Schools prepare for possible alert level change
Schools are bracing for a possible change to alert levels ahead of an announcement later tonight.
Auckland Primary Principals’ Association president Stephen Lethbridge said schools around the city would be looking at their Alert Level response plans to ensuring they were prepared as they waited for further news.
Just this morning schools across the country were reminded to be ready for things to change at short notice. In a prescient update to school leaders, Secretary of Education Iona Holsted said although “we’re all still enjoying Alert Level 1 across the country”, it was concerning to see the Delta variant sweeping the globe.
Schools should check they were ready if things change, particularly if they were linked to a confirmed case, Holsted wrote.
They should check they had up-to-date contact information for all students, staff and parents. They could also be made to shut down for three days or longer with “little or no warning”, and should be ready for distance learning.
Hospitality sector braces for impact
Restaurant, bar and cafe owners and staff were also bracing for potential disruption, Hospitality NZ national president Jeremy Smith said.
“Everybody’s just holding their breath.”
He expected if Auckland went to Level 3 or 4 lockdown, other regions would have their alert levels raised. But he said if Auckland was only placed in Level 2, the rest of the country may see no alert level changes.
Smith said many hospitality businesses were capable or reacting to alert level changes faster than they were last year.
An alert level change in Wellington could scupper that city’s Burger Wellington event, he said. The event was set to run until the end of August, and many restaurants had already stocked up on supplied.
“It couldn’t come at a worse time, in terms of people stocking up.”
But Smith emphasised the hospitality industry was ready to follow official advice.
“We recognise that, if we have go into a lockdown for the greater good.”
He said Hospitality NZ members were hoping authorities got to the bottom of the latest case or outbreak as soon as possible.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said the Covid-19 community case announcement was “gut-wrenching” and downtown Auckland businesses now had a nervous wait ahead of the Prime Minister’s expected 6pm press conference.
“I know there are people starting to prepare for the possibility of a lockdown.”
Thousands of people who worked, shopped, or visited the CBD during the day would have to head home in the next few hours, and Beck urged people to be proactive and practice physical distancing where possible, and wear face masks.
“Fortunately, people have been through it before – but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
The community case timing was concerning for restaurateurs, Beck said, coming right in the middle of the city’s Restaurant Month event.
It comes as more than 2.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered.
The Ministry of Education is referring media to the Ministry of Health as the “lead agency” on Covid matters.
There are no new cases in managed isolation.
The news comes after revelations this morning that Covid was spread between returnees at Auckland’s Jet Park quarantine facility when room doors were opened simultaneously for seconds during food deliveries and a health check.
An investigation has revealed the highly contagious Delta variant was spread in seconds across a corridor and changes were now underway at the 31 MIQ facilities across the country to prevent synchronous door opening.
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