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There are 103 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today – up on yesterday’s tally of 63.
Of today’s cases, 86 are in Auckland, two in Northland, nine in Waikato, three in Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes and two in Canterbury, the Ministry of Health said in a statement released at 1pm.
Nelson-Tasman and Taranaki also have a case each, but these will be added to Monday’s numbers. The Taranaki case was announced last night by the DHB.
The two new cases in Northland are both linked to known cases. One is based in Kaitaia and has been isolating while infectious as they were a close contact of a known case. The second is in Paihia and is a household contact of a known case.
An infection in a border worker, reported on December 11, is still being investigated.
In Auckland, there are 2751 people isolating at home, including 686 Covid cases.
Further testing at Aria Park Retirement Village in Epsom, Auckland – where a staff member had tested positive – has turned up no new cases.
In Waikato, six of today’s cases are in Te Kūiti, one in Hamilton, one in Tokoroa, and one in Ōtorohanga. Only one has been linked to a known case.
Wastewater samples have also tested positive in Taumaranui and Tokoroa. Both towns have reported Covid cases in the past few days.
All three Bay of Plenty cases are in Tauranga, with two linked to known cases. Contacts are being identified and locations of interest added to the ministry’s website.
The new Lakes DHB case is in Rotorua and is linked to the existing cluster.
The case that was reported last night in the Taranaki town of Eltham has not been linked to any previously reported cases in New Plymouth or Waitara. They are now isolating at home and locations of interest will be added to the ministry website.
The Nelson-Tasman case is linked to other cases.
The two Canterbury cases are linked – they are household members of existing cases and are in a managed isolation facility.
There was also one new case at the border – a person who arrived from the United Kingdom on a United Arab Emirates flight that went through Malaysia. They arrived on December 10 and tested positive through routine testing on Day 1 of their MIQ stay in Christchurch.
There are 61 Covid patients in hospital – 13 at North Shore Hospital, 20 at Auckland, 23 at Middlemore, two at Waikato, two at Tauranga and one at Nelson. Three people are in intensive care or a high dependency unit – one at Middlemore, one at North Shore and one at Auckland.
The average age of those in hospital is 52.
Among those in hospital in the Northern region wards, 33 are not vaccinated or ineligible. Nine are partly immunised, nine are fully vaccinated and the vaccination status of two is unknown. The ministry did not provide vaccination figures for those outside northern areas.
The Ministry of Health urged anyone in New Zealand with symptoms – no matter how mild – to get tested, even if they are fully vaccinated, and stay isolated until returning a negative result.
On Saturday, 15,910 vaccine doses were administered. They included 2698 people getting their first dose and 8446 getting their second. There were also 216 third primary doses and 4550 boosters administered.
By the end of yesterday, 75 per cent of eligible Māori had had their second dose of the vaccine, compared to an overall rate of 89 per cent across the country, while 86 per cent had had a first dose.
Pacific peoples were at 93 per cent first-dosed and 86 per cent second-dosed.
Among fully vaccinated people, more than 91 per cent have now downloaded a My Vaccine Pass.
There were 24,754 Covid tests given in the last 24 hours, including 8344 in Auckland.
Govt to review traffic light settings tomorrow
Today’s update comes ahead of the Government meeting to review New Zealand’s traffic light settings on Monday.
Cabinet’s decision will be based on factors including vaccination rates – which are climbing – and case numbers, which have plummeted.
Yesterday there were just 63 new cases, the lowest in two months, with 53 in Auckland. That compares to several days in November of more than 200 cases.
Sixty people were in hospital and three in intensive care. Since last February 46 people have died of Covid, including two in the past week.
Health experts say the fall in new cases is because of increasing vaccination rates: 94 per cent of the eligible population has had a first dose and 89 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker said the falling numbers were a very positive – and surprising – development but it was likely too soon for Auckland to open up further.
It has only been 10 days since the new traffic light system came into effect on December 2, allowing vaccinated people more freedoms. Baker said any climb in cases because of that change would take about two weeks to show up, and until then it was best for the city to stay in the strictest red light setting.
If case numbers kept falling through to the end of next week, it could be safe to move the city to the orange light, he said.
Most of the country is already in the orange light phase although regions with lower vaccination rates – including Northland, Tairāwhiti, Lakes and Whanganui – are still in a red light. Those areas should stay under the stricter setting until their vaccination rates climbed, Baker said.
He believed the 5 per cent of people who had only had their first dose would soon get their second, in order to get their vaccine pass.
After tomorrow’s meeting, Cabinet will not review traffic light settings again until January 17.
Regardless of traffic light colour, on December 15 Auckland’s borders will open with people allowed to leave if they are either fully vaccinated, or have a negative Covid test in the past 72 hours.
A number of issues have arisen with vaccination records in recent days, including a man allegedly getting 10 jabs in one day on behalf of other people, for payment, and a doctor allegedly handing out fake medical exemptions.
Concerns were also raised yesterday that there were many more vaccine passes being requested than people vaccinated in New Zealand.
The Ministry of Health said that was because people were requesting more than one My Vaccine Pass to use on a second device, and because people who got their vaccination in a different country were also requesting passes.
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