Auckland to remain at Covid-19 Alert Level 2.5, review to take place in mid-September

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Auckland will remain at Alert Level 2.5 for the time being, with a review taking place in 10 days' time on September 14.

The rest of the country will stay at Alert Level 2, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced. 

Ms Ardern said if a change to alert levels is decided at the review on September 14, it would be from Wednesday, September 16 at 11.59pm. 

Cabinet met today to review the current alert levels, with Ardern saying health advice and the amount of time Auckland had been at Level 2.5 was among what they considered. 

"Going on just five days at these new settings, we don't yet know the impact of our level shift of Auckland and beyond," she said. 

"It is simply too early to know just know."

She also said early modelling showed the greatest period of risk was over weekends.

“Lockdown must always be at our last resort. The best economic response remains a strong health response,” Ardern said. 

“That means looking at what the health evidence tells us.”

“At this stage the Auckland cluster remains contained,” Ardern said, adding there was no indication that Auckland needed to raise its alert level. 

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said there were three more cases of coronavirus in the community, all linked the August Auckland cluster, and two in managed isolation. 

Ardern said since Auckland had been at Level 2.5, there had been “another 30 community cases all associated with the cluster and people identified as close contacts and already in isolation”. 

“Everyone has taken the most recent setting seriously, too.”

However, she added that "staying on track to lift restrictions with confidence does mean taking a cautious approach now".

Ardern said there was discussion during Cabinet around whether to lift the additional restrictions placed on Auckland, “but keeping in mind we’ve only had these gathering limit for five, six days”. 

She said that extending the current settings "give us a bit of extra time and confidence". 

"This particular cluster really has spread through social gatherings and that is something we were mindful of."

"There was really no consideration around the idea of moving alert levels."

Sectioning off the South Island was also discussed, however Ms Ardern said there would be people who needed to travel up to the North Island, and there also needed to be risk mitigation in case the Auckland cluster moved beyond. 

"We are a very mobile country."

On if Auckland would need to move to Level 2, before the whole country could get to Level 1, Ardern said she did not want to pre-determine any decisions. 

"We haven’t said, for instance, we have an expectation to aggregate settings in that way.

"What I would imagine Cabinet would like to do at the next Alert Level setting, assess the risk that exists within Auckland… so if Auckland’s looking good, that should have a positive knock on."

Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield - File.

Auckland moved to Alert Level 2.5 last Sunday, after being at Alert Level 3 and the rest of New Zealand has remained at Level 2 since August 12.

Yesterday, Ardern told media Cabinet would consider the nature of Auckland's Covid-19 cluster, its containment, compliance, the economic impact and the time period at Level 2.5 when it meets to review alert levels. 

She said any possible changes to alert levels would be signaled today - ahead of September 6, which marks a week of Auckland being placed in Level 2.5. 

"We have been at this level only for a very short period of time, we are still in this earlyish stage of seeing the impact on the cluster, so these are all things Cabinet will consider," Ardern said yesterday.

"We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, so making sure we reduce the risk as much as possible – we know some of the most at risk times tend to be around weekends for instance.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told the Health Select Committee this week the "first next step" of the Covid-19 alert levels will be focused on Auckland shifting from Level 2.5 to 2 - rather than the possibility of moving to Level 1. 

When asked during Wednesday's 1pm briefing if a move to Level 1 after this week's review was off the cards, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said, "no, it's just literally we haven't got to that part yet".

"The advice for those Cabinet meetings tends to come together at the last minute because we are drawing on the most recent and up to date information as we make those decisions.

"That information for those tends to be drawn together about 36 hours before that meeting takes place."