Ardern says NZ at one of covid’s ‘most challenging moments’ – 35 new cases

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ... mandatory vaccinations have been introduced for health and education workers. Image: TVNZ screenshot APR

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Today’s media briefing. Video: RNZ News

The government will be doing two things this week to drive vaccination rates up.

“The first is Super Saturday where, across the country, we’ll be pulling out the stops to increase vaccination rates. It is also an opportunity to get your second vaccine if you’re three weeks since your first,” she said.

“Getting fully vaccinated as soon as possible means we can be in a stronger position to ease restrictions.”

The second thing the government will be doing is to strengthen its response by making vaccination mandatory for large numbers of the health and education workforces.

“The reason we are stepping up our vaccination requirements is because delta is a different and more difficult opponent. We have seen all around the world that is the case,” Ardern said.

“No one yet has eliminated a delta outbreak.”

Ardern said restrictions were extremely important in controlling the virus while we get the population vaccinated.

Measures to make all the difference
“These measures, when followed, make all the difference.”

She said the r-value had crept up, meaning that cases were likely to grow in the coming days.

“If followed, our alert level restrictions can help control that spread.”

Ardern said people wanted more certainty than the government could provide at the moment.

“Our goal remains the same, even if the approach to achieving it changes. We have a pathway forward, we remain in a very strong position to make the transition from lockdown restrictions to the individual armour of vaccines while maintaining our world leading position on case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths as well as delivering a strong economy and low unemployment.”

Covid-19 Reponse Minister Chris Hipkins said the government was expecting a busy week ahead for vaccinations

“Vaccination remains our strongest and most effective to protect against infection and disease and we need as many people as possible to be vaccinated to allow all of our sectors to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to deliver everyday services with as little disruption as possible.”

He said that making vaccination mandatory for some workers was not an easy decision, “but we need to have the people who work with vulnerable communities, who haven’t been vaccinated, to now take this extra step”.

Auckland schools to remain closed
Ardern said the advice about schools being able to reopen for term 4 was initial advice which has now changed.

“Today, the public health team have advised us that the state of the outbreak in Auckland has highlighted the need for robust safety measures to be in place before schools reopen.”

School and early learning staff and support people who have contact with children and students will need to be fully vaccinated by 1 January, 2022.

If parents are involved in their child’s school any more than “pick ups and drop offs” they would also need to be fully vaccinated, the prime minister said.

Masks were required at secondary schools around the country.

Northland testing
Ardern said the government was relying on high community rates of testing to give them confidence there was no covid-19 in Northland.

“This is an incredibly frustrating situation, the likes of which we’ve seen very rarely in our covid response before. Given how extraordinary it is, I have asked Health to consider all of the options available to them as they and the police work with the individuals involved.

“The two most important things Northlanders can do in the meantime is to please get tested and also get vaccinated. We need the confidence provided by testing to reduce restrictions,” she said.

Director of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said police were confident that the woman they could not locate in Northland was not travelling around at the moment.

Ardern said that if the person was watching, “the absolute easiest option for you right now is to come forward, allow a test to be undertaken so that we can ensure that we are protecting those that have been around you — and that may include your family and friends.

“That is by far the simplest path forward from here.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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