Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will reveal Cabinet’s decision on alert level settings for Auckland, Northland and Waikato at 4pm today.
She will be joined by director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who said this morning that a circuit-breaker move to level 4 in Auckland was being actively considered as case numbers continue to rise.
It seems unlikely, however, given Ardern’s recent rhetoric about alert levels only working if people voluntarily follow the rules, and the current level of lockdown fatigue as Auckland looks at its tenth week in level 4 or 3.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, who is also Education Minister, is also expected to give an update on when schools might reopen in Auckland.
Public health experts, as well as calling for a level 4 move to be considered, have also cautioned against moving Auckland to step 2 of level 3 restrictions, which would see more customer-facing businesses reopen, including retail, libraries, and museums – with restrictions including mask-wearing.
The outbreak in Auckland has now spread throughout the city and case numbers are expected to grow, potentially 160 cases a day by early November.
There were 60 cases reported in today’s update, including three in Waikato – two of which are unlinked.
That brings the total number of unlinked cases in Waikato to six. In total, including Auckland, there are 140 unlinked cases in the past fortnight.
One of the new cases is a staff member at Remuera Gardens retirement village in Auckland, but the risk is considered low as staff and residents there have high vaccination rates.
Level 2 for Northland looks more likely, given there have been no cases there since the region moved to level 3 10 days ago.
Three women who travelled from Auckland to Northland and back have all tested positive, but none of the testing in the region – including wastewater testing – has indicated any other cases.
Super Saturday has helped push vaccination rates in Auckland to 89 per cent of eligible people with one dose and 71 per cent with two doses, prompting Bloomfield to say Auckland could hit 90 per cent fully vaccinated within four weeks.
Nationwide, 85 per cent of eligible people have had one dose and 66 per cent have had two doses, though the numbers are much lower for Māori (66 per cent and 45 per cent).
Māori make up most of the active cases in the Auckland outbreak.
There are still about 2.3 million people in New Zealand who are not fully vaccinated, including about 750,000 children under 12. In Auckland, there are just under 1 million people – including children – who are not fully vaccinated.
Of the 2005 cases in the outbreak so far, 409 of them are not eligible to be vaccinated because they are younger than 12.
Of the remaining 1596 cases, 1132 cases (71 per cent) were unvaccinated and 91 cases (6 per cent) were fully immunised, meaning they had two doses and at least two weeks since the second dose when they tested positive.
Of the 179 cases that have needed hospital care, seven children were not eligible for the vaccine.
Of the remaining 172 cases, 138 cases (80 per cent) were unvaccinated, and three (1.7 per cent) were fully immunised.