Alert level 2 rules will be extended for 48 hours in Wellington, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.
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New South Wales has recorded 18 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday.
Fifteen of those cases are linked to the Bondi cluster, two are close contacts of a previously reported unlinked case.
Of the new 18 cases, six were in isolation throughout their infectious periods. A further three cases were in isolation for part of their infectious periods.
NSW Health also announced this afternoon an additional two South Coogee Public School students have tested positive.
The students are close contacts of the two previously reported cases at the school, bringing the total number of students with Covid-19 at South Coogee Public School to four.
Based on the additional cases and because the children interact in different year groups, all students were now deemed close contacts and must get tested and self-isolate for 14 days regardless of a negative test result.
Five of the new cases were linked to the Great Ocean Foods seafood wholesaler in Marrickville, bringing the total number of cases in that cluster to 16.
Two new cases are linked to the West Hoxton birthday party, bringing the total number of cases from the party to 31. That includes 24 people who acquired it at the party and subsequent contacts of theirs.
A new case announced yesterday in the Glen Innes Severn Local Government Area is also included in NSW’s numbers today.
The man in his 30s was exposed to the virus at the Granites gold mine in the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory.
He has been in isolation since his return home and there was no current risk of infection to the local community.
The case wasn’t linked to the Bondi cluster.
NSW now has 88 cases of Covid-19, two of whom are in intensive care.
Most cases – 92 per cent – are being treated in non-acute, out-of-hospital care, including returned travellers in the Special Health Accommodation.
The Prime Minister this morning indicated the transtasman bubble will resume shortly with the exception of New South Wales, which would remain paused.
And Jacinda Ardern has revealed she has not been told by health officials of any new community cases in New Zealand overnight.
She told RNZ there were no positive results from widespread testing in Wellington in the past 12 hours following last week’s health scare when an infected Australian tourist took a weekend break in the capital city.
The Victorian Government this morning reported no new cases in the community over the past 24 hours to midnight, including any infections from across state lines.
However Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young announced two new positive cases, including a female miner who had been out in the community while infectious.
The worker was one of 170 fly-in fly-out workers from a Northern Territory gold mine where a positive case was detected at the weekend.
The woman had started out on a family road trip, including visiting petrol stations and cafes.
The other infected person was already in quarantine when they tested positive.
Ardern said keeping Wellington in level 2 would give officials additional time to get extra test results through following confirmation the Australian visitor’s partner had now tested positive.
Wellington would likely move to level 1 from Wednesday if there were no positive tests, she said.
This morning the Prime Minister defended the bubble pause, saying it was necessary to protect New Zealand’s own freedoms and give time to put in place pre-departure screening.
And she revealed each traveller would be required to pay for the pre-departure test.
Ardern told The AM Show the Government would have to enforce it and this was something they were seriously considering, she said.
It also gave officials time to assess several cases in Australia including the Northern Territory miner and the several hundred close contacts they are trying to locate, as well as the Victorian airline steward who had been on multiple domestic flights.
Ardern said there was a “risk of short-term pauses” and asked New Zealanders to stay where they were and follow the guidelines.
‘Worst in quite some time’
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins earlier warned things in Australia were at their “worst in quite some time”.
Hipkins announced on Sunday that level 2 in Wellington would be extended for a further two days to allow more time to ensure nobody had been infected by an Australian visitor over the weekend of June 20.
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He also addressed the decision on Saturday night to pause the Australian quarantine-free bubble completely for at least three days – the first time the entire bubble has halted since it began in April.
Hipkins acknowledged it would disrupt people’s plans and keep people separated.
“There are no desirable decisions here. All of them have a risk and a consequence attached to them. But the Delta variant poses a new and greater risk and we need to be very aware of that.”
There were now lockdowns in Sydney and in Darwin, and Hipkins pointed to high risks it had spread further afield.
New Zealand authorities were scrambling to make sure nobody had travelled to New Zealand from the mine in the Northern Territory, where a person with Covid-19 had worked for a week.
About 900 workers had since left the mine and gone elsewhere.
The Prime Minister told Morning Report she understood no contacts of those cases had travelled to New Zealand.
Concern as NSW outbreak surges
Australian Medical Association New South Wales Council chairman Dr Michael Bonning said there was a pretty high level of concern about the latest outbreak, particularly with a case emerging in Northern Territory.
He told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking many of the New South Wales cases were linked and developing while in quarantine.
Unfortunately the Delta variant had forced a lockdown coupled with a slow vaccine roll out.
“But certainly we’re seeing a problem of our vaccine roll out system that it hasn’t relied on the whole health care system,” he said.
Isolating Warrior players nervous wait for results
Warriors chief executive Cameron George told Newstalk ZB said they hadn’t yet had test results back from the two players who were now caught up in the NSW outbreak.
Euan Aitken and Josh Curran were both considered close contacts after travelling on a domestic flight with a flight attendant who had since tested positive for Covid-19.
George said the pair were self-isolating. They had had contact with a few other teammates who were considered casual contacts. This could change once test results were known.
Meanwhile, the NRL was now working out how to continue the competition, with talk of it shifting to venues outside the affected state.
Details of how to proceed would be worked out this afternoon.
He said it was a difficult time for everyone. At this point he was hoping the home match at Mt Smart Stadium in August would still be able to go ahead.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also announced an order to require anybody who had been in Sydney since June 21 and now returned to act as if they were still in Sydney – and stay away from others.
Air New Zealand has now cancelled all passenger flights from Australia to New Zealand during that pause until Wednesday morning, and reduced flights from New Zealand to Australia.
Cabinet would consider whether New Zealand should reopen for states in Australia that do not have cases, and was likely to bring in pre-departure testing.
Infection expert’s wildfire warning
Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank said the Government was right to take a cautious stand while the delta variant spread in Australia.
“If there is even one case lurking out there, it has the potential to spread like wildfire because the Delta variant is so infectious and our vaccination coverage is too low at the moment to slow it down much.”
The move to pause quarantine-free travel from Australia has concerned tourism and travel operators who were hoping for an influx of visitors for the ski season when the Australian school holidays start in a week.
Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Helen White said the pause had already resulted in cancellations of bookings.
“This is a kick in the guts for operators. We appreciate we need to manage the health risk, however this comes at a cost and our sector is at the brunt on this cost.”
She said it showed how crucial it was for the vaccinations rollout to ramp up. “That should be given top priority over everything else the Government is doing right now.”
Resort town’s ‘avalanche of cancellations’
Queenstown mayor Jim Boult said the town was “all dressed up and no place to go”.
A local hotelier had described the lockdown impact as an “avalanche of cancellations”.
Another had told him he had lost over $1million worth of bookings due to the lockdown.
He said it was “pretty devastating”.
He said the best thing to hope for was the lockdown to end before the Australian school holidays came to an end to salvage a portion of the season.
Other than that it was a good time for Kiwis to head south and holiday at home.
On the decision to keep Wellington at level 2 for a further 48 hours, Hipkins said so far all but 300 of the 2400 contacts had returned a test result, and all so far had been negative.
However, he said the man’s partner who travelled with him had now tested positive after initially testing negative.
Hipkins urged people to double-check the locations of interest to make sure they had not visited them, given it showed the man could transmit the virus and was likely infectious at the tail end of his stay.
That was particularly important for Sunday, June 20, when the man visited One Red Dog, and the Countdown on Cable Lane on the Sunday, and Monday morning at Wellington Airport.
He also urged anyone with cold or flu symptoms to get a test, saying daily test numbers were low and it was needed to be certain there was no undetected community spread.
Te Papa to reopen, some exhibits stay closed
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said it was responsible to extend level 2. While businesses were affected, it had been a “huge relief” that so far there had not been a need to scale upwards into a more stringent lockdown, he said.
Te Papa this morning announced it would be reopening to the public at 10am tomorrow, six days after it was closed by a visit from an infected tourist.
A museum spokesperson said there would be new restrictions in place, including a limit of 900 visitors in the complex at a time and social distancing.
She said 123 staff were affected by the infected tourist, with 119 at the museum on the Saturday when the tourist spent three hours at the museum. A further four staff were at other exposure sites across Wellington.
By yesterday afternoon more than half the staff had returned a negative result. the 28 in the Surrealist Art Exhibition were required to self-isolate for 14 days, including Te Papa’s chief executive.
The Surrealist Art exhibition would re-open but with changes including a maximum of 78 people allowed inside at any one time, distancing in queues, additional cleaning and the closure of interactive displays
A karakia would be held on Tuesday before the museum opened to the public.
Call for pre-departure testing
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Nick Wilson said the extension in Wellington was wise, and a “very strong case” for adopting a period of pre-departure testing, which could be combined with testing on arrival in New Zealand, once quarantine-free travel with Australia reopened.
Act leader David Seymour said the complete pause of the bubble showed New Zealand’s Covid-19 response – especially the vaccination rollout – had not developed enough.
“Lock ’em down and lock ’em out remains the Government’s only response to outbreaks.
“Next week three states that have closed their borders to infected states go on school holidays. Will the Government deny the tourism industry those dollars for no good reason?”
Hipkins said there was already public nervousness about the bubble – pointing to research by the Covid team in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet which showed New Zealanders were more nervous of the Australia bubble than the Cook Islands bubble, and were opposed to opening up to more countries.