New Zealand to remain at red covid-19 traffic light setting amid pandemic

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ... "We are still frankly amid an outbreak and there is still pressure across our hospital network." Image: Angus Dreaver/RNZ

RNZ News

Aotearoa New Zealand will remain at the red covid-19 traffic light setting, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ardern made the announcement at today’s post-cabinet media briefing.

She said the rolling average of cases had declined 36 percent in the two weeks since the government refined the traffic light system.

There had been early data showing an uptick since mid-March in people visiting places of retail and recreation in Auckland, as well as more people returning to workplaces, she said.

While cases were dropping in Auckland, Wellington and Tairāwhiti, others region like Canterbury, Northland and Waikato were not experiencing the same drop. Hospitalisations in some DHBs were not expected to peak until mid- to late-April.

“So for now, New Zealand will remain at red,” Ardern said.

“I know there is an eagerness to move to orange, but we are still frankly amid an outbreak and there is still pressure across our hospital network.”

Nine further deaths
The Ministry of Health today reported 10,205 new community cases of covid-19 and nine further deaths.

There are now 734 people in hospital, including 25 in ICU or HDU.

In a statement, the ministry said the seven-day rolling average of case numbers was continuing to decline — down to 13,218 from last Monday’s 16,102.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said health officials would not be looking at a specific number of hospitalisations when advising a move down to the orange setting, but would rather be considering capacity and pressure levels, which also includes staffing at hospitals.

The next review of the traffic light settings will be on Thursday, April 14.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the traffic light system. Video: RNZ

The country will remain at the red Covid-19 traffic light setting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Ardern made the announcement at today’s post-Cabinet media briefing from about 4pm.

Based on health advice
Ardern said the decision today was based on health advice, and the government did not want to move too quickly and lose the progress made.

“It’s less about the case numbers and more about the hospitalisations.”

Asked why Auckland could not move to orange when cases were falling, Ardern said that while there was a decline in hospitalisations, “it is off a high base, the numbers are still relatively high, the pressure on our system is still there, we want to make sure that we’re in the best possible position and we don’t lose the gains we’ve worked so hard for.

“We’ve always said that there is the possibility of moving regions to different levels at different times … but as we’ve said, Auckland has made significant progress but we do still have a relatively high hospitalisation rate.

“We need to look after our healthcare workforce.”

The country needed to help the health system recover and be ready for the expected winter surge, Ardern said, requesting that people get boosted.

“Unvaccinated and people that are not boosted make up a disproportionate number of people in our hospitals. More than 9900 people are due their booster today, please get your booster as soon as you can.”

Looking at overall trends
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told RNZ Checkpoint tonight there were a range of considerations cabinet would have to take account of in its April 14 review.

“We’re obviously looking at the overall trends … how many new hospital admissions as well as those who are in hospital – but also the demographics,” he said.

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