Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Anxious wait for Northland and Waikato ahead of alert level decision

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It’s an anxious wait for Waikato and Northland ahead of today’s Government decision to relax alert level settings after a new case involving an essential worker emerged overnight.

Northland was plunged into a snap level 3 lockdown on Friday night after it was confirmed an Auckland woman who made it through the border checkpoint had Covid-19. Waikato has been in level 3 since October 3 when a positive case was detected.

Cabinet will meet again this morning to make a decision with an announcement to be made at the 1pm press conference. You can watch the press conference live at NZ Herald.

Any change in alert levels for the two regions would come into effect from 11.59pm tomorrow. Auckland will stay in phase 1 of level 3 until at least 11.59pm next Tuesday with that decision to be made on Monday.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins this morning confirmed a truck driver who travelled from Auckland to Northland and back again had also tested positive for the virus but said that would not necessarily shake any decision to move the region down alert levels.

Last night a Whangarei tyre business, Steve Taylor Tyres, posted it was a location of interest with the shop closed for deep cleaning and all workers getting tests.

The infected truck driver was on site at theKamo premises last Saturday, October 9.

Despite another three cases appearing in the Waikato yesterday and uncertainty around the movements of the Covid-positive pair in Northland, Hipkins this morning said things were looking encouraging for an alert level move in both areas.

Hipkins yesterday said it appeared there was nothing to stop the move down alert levels in Northland.

“It’s looking really encouraging.”

As for the Waikato, he said health officials were “reasonably comfortable” they had a ring around the outbreak in the region.

He pointed out yesterday’s three Waikato cases were household contacts who were already isolating and in Northland there had been no new cases however they were keen to get test numbers up.

It was also revealed this morning that a person who tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturdayplayed golf at the Omaha Beach Golf Club on Wednesday and Friday last week.

A post on the club’s Facebook page said the member picked up the virus while in Auckland last week however there was no need for club members to be concerned.

“They followed all health and safety protocols while playing golf, and maintained a safe distance from others while at the club,” the post said.

“Identified close contacts of the infected person will be/have already been contacted by the contact tracing team. If you have not been contacted and told you were a close contact, then you are not one.”

Meanwhile, director of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and the programme director of the Vaccine Alliance Professor Graham Le Gros said he was working on a New Zealand-made booster shot which he hoped would be ready and available next year.

Le Gros said vaccination was simply the only way forward – and while the initial roll out was good, a better vaccine or booster was going to be needed.

His team was working on a booster now that he hoped would be available in 2022.

“We need a sterilising vaccine,” he said.

“This current vaccine is very good but it is still allowing transmission.

“There is no let-up… we have to get better vaccines or give boosters… boosters that stop transmission.

“We need better vaccines that are yet to come. I intend to [provide that], that is the ambition.”

Le Gros said the virus was still evolving and was not something we could learn to live with.

“It’s a bat virus and now it is learning how to infect humans, it is bypassing borders just like that… it is learning how to infect us in different ways,” he told Breakfast this morning.

“We cannot yet live with it.”

Le Gros said the Delta variant was not the end of the evolution and people needed to get their heads around the intensity of the illness.

He said it was nothing like the flu – it was more like measles in terms of spread and long term health impacts and severity.

“Measles… which we do not try to live with, we try to stamp it out when we can.

“Covid grows in your heart tissue, your lung tissue, your brain, your gut…the effects of long Covid are still not completely known.

“Just allowing this virus to get around and become endemic is the wrong way.”

Le Gros said like smallpox and like polio the Covid-19 virus would “live in small pockets” of the population and spread to the most vulnerable.

“It won’t just go mild like a common cold.

“It will take people out… it won’t be nice.”

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