Auckland will stay in covid-19 alert level 4 for another week until 11.59pm next Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
Cabinet has made an in principle decision that Tāmaki Makaurau will then move to alert level 3.
The rest of New Zealand will remain in alert level 2 until Tuesday next week.
Alert level settings will be reviewed next Monday.
Ardern said Cabinet had made an indicative decision about Auckland, but had not made one about the rest of New Zealand moving to alert level 1.
While there was nothing to indicate there was covid-19 outside of Auckland, lower restrictions in the rest of the country would mean a far greater risk of spread if it did escape, she said.
Having the rest of the country at alert level 2 gave a greater chance of stamping the virus out if it did get out of Auckland, she said.
Auckland has been at alert level 4 since midnight on August 17 after an outbreak of the delta variant of covid-19.
Cabinet had seen evidence and advice that alert level 4 was working, saying it had consistently reduced the R value below 1, and it is now about 0.6, Ardern said.
Watch the media conference
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield brief the news media. Video: RNZ News
“On that basis and on the advice of the Director-General of Health, Auckland will remain at alert level 4 until 11.59pm next Tuesday, the 21st of September.”
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the “lockdown is working” and it is only a small number of cases that the ministry is focused on.
“The testing is at a good level … so our view and our advice is that another week in lockdown in alert level 4 in Auckland gives us our best chance to really finish the job off here.
“Our view is we are doing everything right. It is paying off and we need to see this through and there is good reason to want to eliminate the virus again,” Dr Bloomfield said.
“It does allow us to enjoy a full range of activities and for the economy to really crank back up again.”
He said the focus for the next week was finding cases.
Cases and testing
Ardern said today there were 33 new community cases to report, but only one of them was currently unlinked.
“Likewise of the cases reported yesterday, just one remains unlinked to the wider outbreak at this point,” she said.
Ardern said that in some cases where an epidemiological link had not been able to be built, the genome sequencing was still able to tell authorities how the case fitted into the outbreak.
They expect to have more information about the one as-yet unlinked case reported today.
Ardern said one reason for the bigger numbers over the weekend was high rates of transmission within households.
Dr Bloomfield mentioned yesterday, about 16 percent of very close contacts become cases.
“That in and of itself will generate about another 50 cases in the coming days and we’re starting to see some of those come through.”
The number of unlinked cases went up and down every day, Dr Bloomfield said.
At 9am there were 17 unlinked cases but only a small number of those the ministry was really worried about.
Ardern said surveillance testing of healthcare workers and essential workers had also not identified any transmission.
“It’s also clear there is not widespread transmission of the virus in Auckland.”
Ardern said the government wanted as many Aucklanders as possible to have had their first dose of the covid-19 vaccine by the end of the week. She said people booked for October should consider going online again and seeing if more bookings had opened up.
Another option was going to a drive-through vaccination clinic, with no need for booking.
Ardern said she stood by her previous statements that the government did not want to continue to use lockdowns, but the country needed to make sure that enough New Zealanders had been vaccinated.
“That’s why New Zealanders are empowered too. They have the chance to move away from lockdowns as much as we do, by being vaccinated.”
Message to Aucklanders
“To all Aucklanders, you’ve done an amazing job so far protecting yourselves, your family and your community,” Ardern said.
“We owe you a huge debt of gratitude … but the cases are telling us we have additional work to do.”
She said that four weeks into lockdown, it might be tempting to relax their bubble, but she asked everyone to treat every day as seriously as they did from day one.
People should have an assigned person who went to the supermarket, Ardern said.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.