Morning Briefing Aug 20: Lockdown decision due as more schools confirm cases

Anna Murray
Source: 1News

The Government decides today about potential lockdown extensions, as more Auckland schools and hospitals are affected by positive Covid cases.

Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield speak at a press conference

As the Government decides today about whether to extend lockdown, two more Auckland high schools have reported Covid-19 cases.

Lynfield College and Northcote College both confirmed last night one of their students has tested positive for the virus. Students and staff from both schools must now isolate for 14 days, regardless of the country’s lockdown status.

Another case has been reported this morning in a patient in Waitākere Hospital, who was also in North Shore Hospital earlier this week for an unrelated condition. 

Meanwhile, the list of exposure sites around Auckland continues to grow, with fears some could be Covid super spreaders . Around 1000 people are deemed close contacts at SkyCity Auckland’s main casino gaming floor.

Cabinet is due to meet today about lockdown levels, with their decision on any extensions being revealed at 3pm.

It comes as local experts predict case numbers to keep rising , however they say the current Level 4 lockdown “will be stopping the virus in its tracks”.

Australian epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely told 1 NEWS he also expects case numbers to rise quickly in New Zealand over the coming days as the virus is circled. He says the lifting of lockdowns usually comes once there have been a few days of zero cases out in the community while infectious.  

There was some good news yesterday, with health officials believing they made a “significant” discovery in tracking down the beginnings of the outbreak.

The current cases are a “close match” to a recent returnee from Sydney . Officials are now focusing their search on Auckland’s Crowne Plaza MIQ facility, which Jacinda Ardern named as the likely source of the outbreak.

Some people have previously voiced concerns about safety measures at the facility , more specifically an area where a makeshift wall separates the hotel from a public walk-through route.

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Young Kiwis in line for vaccine

Meanwhile, the Government continues to try and get as many Kiwis vaccinated against Covid-19 as possible, with young New Zealanders aged 12 to 15 now able to get the Pfizer vaccine .

It will be available to the 265,000 teens in that age group from September 1, however already eligible parents and caregivers can also book in their children for a jab from today. 

Essential workers who are customer-facing are also being bumped up the vaccine queue after the Government was criticised for not prioritising the group.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says unvaccinated essential workers are a “weak spot” in New Zealand’s lockdown and have greater potential to transmit the virus if infected.

The Government is now working with employers to identify those who should be getting their jabs sooner. 

Police act on lockdown breaches

Police say they’re pleased with the nationwide response to Alert Level 4 restrictions, although almost 700 breaches have been reported already . Approximately half of those were about a gathering, while another half were about a business. 

The NZ Herald reports police were called to the Crown Range Rd summit near Queenstown at least twice yesterday to send snow-seekers home , while Stuff reports two people were arrested at a supermarket in Kaitaia after allegedly “acting in a disorderly manger” and refusing to wear face coverings. 

Meanwhile, two men, including former political candidate Billy Te Kahika, appeared in Auckland District Court yesterday , charged with breaching lockdown restrictions on public gatherings. 

Afghanistan rescue mission underway

Chaos persists at Kabul Airport as thousands of people attempt to flee Taliban rule.

At least 12 people have been killed at the airport since Sunday, according to Taliban officials.

It comes as New Zealand’s rescue mission to help people out of Afghanistan gets underway.

Defence Force personnel left the Whenuapai airbase in Auckland yesterday morning. They’re heading for the Middle East where they’ll work with international partners to evacuate Afghans who have helped Kiwi troops.

President Joe Biden says US troops may also stay in Afghanistan beyond his August 31 withdrawal deadline in order to keep evacuating American citizens.

Podmore's death prompts inquiry

An independent inquiry looking at the adequacy of changes made to Cycling New Zealand since its 2018 Heron Review has been announced in the wake of Olivia Podmore’s sudden death.

Cycling NZ and High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) announced the inquiry nearly two weeks after the former Olympian died.

In a public social media post that has since been deleted, Podmore wrote about the pressure of top-level sport and particularly her relationship with Cycling NZ and HPSNZ.

Other news of note this morning:

- Domestic travel restrictions have been delayed an extra 24 hours as Kiwis struggle to get home during lockdown – although the Herald reports at least one Auckland family has been attempting to use the time to travel to Wānaka. 

- Covid-19 testing is ramping up in the Cook Islands for all visitors who arrived from August 11 .

- Victorians are being told not to panic over a surge in coronavirus cases there , with daily case numbers expected to remain high.

- And 1 NEWS Australia correspondent Andrew Macfarlane has compared lockdowns in New South Wales and New Zealand to see which has the stricter rules .

And finally...

Izzy Terauna and her unicorn costume

Many of us are probably in need of a little cheering up right now, so I give you a Gisborne resident in an inflated unicorn costume.

Izzy Terauna attracted international media attention last year when she donned her unique form of PPE to head out in public.

Now she’s got a new unicorn costume and she plans to use it to cheer up essential workers once again. You can check out her chat with TVNZ’s Breakfast here .