NZ pandemic restrictions easing, but snap lockdown for Tonga

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today ... "incredible" Auckland progress towards 90 percent single-dose vaccinated. Image: TVNZ screenshot APR

RNZ News

New Zealand’s cabinet has decided to ease restrictions for some, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says cases may peak this month at 200 a day, and Tonga will enter a snap lockdown at midnight.

Restrictions are set to ease slightly in both Waikato and Tāmaki Makaurau, albeit at different times.

Prime Minister Ardern announced at today’s post-cabinet briefing that Waikato would move down to alert level 3 step 2 from midnight Tuesday.

In Auckland, fewer than 5000 first doses remain before reaching 90 percent single-dose vaccination, and for Auckland as a whole 80 percent has had two doses.

“And that’s incredible,” said Ardern, praising Aucklanders for their progress.

“Case numbers, while growing, remain within some of our expectations as modelled and the public health assessment of the impact of changes like opening up retail include that this activity is generally not responsible for marked increases of new cases.”

Meanwhile, cabinet has decided in principle to move Tāmaki Makaurau to alert level 3 step 2 next Tuesday at 11.59pm.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said potentially slightly easing restrictions in Auckland was a pragmatic move.

Hipkins told RNZ Checkpoint tonight the in-principle decision was based on public health advice.

Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank earlier warned that relaxing restrictions in Auckland and parts of Waikato would accelerate case numbers.

The numbers

  • There were 162 new community cases reported today
  • Of the new cases 156 are in Auckland, five in Waikato and one in Northland
  • There are 53 people in hospital
  • More than 3.1 million New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated
  • More than 20,000 vaccines were administered yesterday
New covid cases 011121
New covid cases in New Zealand. 01112021. Source: Ministry of Health
Cases could peak at 200 a day

Covid-19 cases may peak this month at 200 a day according to modelling that takes vaccination rates into account, Ardern said.

The government modelling suggested there could be 1400 covid-19 cases reported a week by the end of the month.

This would result in 150 new hospitalisations a week, with 11 of those patients requiring intensive care.

The modelling was based on a median scenario with a transmission rate of between 1.2 and 1.3.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said ICUs would not be overwhelmed with those numbers.

Tonga goes into lockdown
Two days ago the kingdom of Tonga recorded its first case of covid-19, now at midnight the main island Tongatapu will go into lockdown.

The lockdown will stay in place until next Sunday.

The positive case arrived in Nuku’alofa on a repatriation flight from Christchurch and while he is asymptomatic, he is being cared for alone in a special quarantine facility in Mu’a.

Tonga’s Ministry of Health Chief Executive Dr Siale Akau’ola said the remaining 214 passengers were in MIQ at the Tanoa Hotel while about 80 frontline workers who met the flight are also in MIQ at the Kupesi Hotel.

“In terms of gatherings this is the most significant part of the lockdown. No schools, all schools are closed, no church gathering, no kava club, no entertainment or any kind of gathering,” RNZ Pacific’s correspondent in Tonga, Kalafi Moala, said.

Safety fears as supplement sales soar
Sales of natural health supplements have risen since covid-19 arrived in New Zealand, but some products can have adverse effects such as anaphylaxis or death.

Supplements, however, are largely unregulated in New Zealand, with the Ministry of Health saying the pandemic has delayed new legislation.

Ten years of Medsafe data shows two people died from complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, and that 30 percent of suspected reactions are life-threatening or cause disability.

About eighty percent of New Zealanders have taken natural health supplements, and Nielsen data shows sales in supermarkets alone rose by nearly 14 percent in the past two years, reflecting worldwide trends.

Progress in New Zealand vaccination levels of eligible population. 01112021. Source: Ministry of Health
Man found after quarantine escape

Two positive community cases fled the Jet Park Managed Quarantine Facility yesterday, in a second breach of MIQ security at the weekend.

Police said one of the people has been found and returned to MIQ. He was found during a vehicle stop in west Auckland.

The whereabouts of a woman who also skipped MIQ on Saturday is known to police but public health officials said she did not need to return.

Police said a decision around any charges would be made soon.

Meanwhile, police said a 36-year-old man had been arrested and charged with Failing to Comply with Order (Covid-19) in relation to attending a gathering at the Auckland Domain and subsequent march through Newmarket on Saturday.

Ronapreve covid-19 treatment
A covid-19 treatment the government is purchasing can help reduce the number of people dying from the virus, says an expert from the University of Otago.

Pharmac revealed yesterday it is set to subsidise Ronapreve, also known as Regeneron or REGEN-COV, which is used for people in danger of becoming severely unwell.

It is expected to be in the country by Christmas.

University of Otago infectious diseases professor Kurt Krause told RNZ Morning Report it was a highly effective way of dealing with early infection and in preventing infection.

Medsafe is also considering molnupiravir for the treatment of covid-19.

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

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