Morning Briefing Aug 23: Struggles pile up as thousands forced to isolate

Anna Murray
Source: 1News

As the Government prepares for its latest decision on alert levels, thousands of Kiwis tackle the struggles of having to isolate for 14 days.

Groceries are delivered to a person isolating at home

The Government will reveal today their latest decision on the country’s lockdown levels , but with nearly 300 locations of interest now connected to the Delta outbreak, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says Level 4 will likely be extended in Auckland at least . That alert levels announcement is expected at 4pm. 

Another 21 Covid-19 community cases were reported yesterday, bringing this outbreak’s total to 72, with a service at a Māngere church now identified as an emerging cluster.

More schools and more supermarkets have also been affected by cases, with thousands of people forced to isolate at home.

Some community groups are now stepping in to help those stuck at home and struggling to access food supplies, so they aren’t forced to head out into the community when they should be isolating.

Meanwhile, authorities are still working to find the link to the potential source of the Delta outbreak and the community.

Transmission via MIQ staff has been almost completely ruled out, so contact tracers are now working with police to find three people who used a public walkway near the Crowne Plaza facility at the same time the infected returnee was moved there.

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Scanning made compulsory

With contact tracers struggling to track all the locations linked to the Delta outbreak, the Government has moved to make scanning or record keeping compulsory for most events and businesses under all levels.

Retail is currently exempt from that requirement , as officials believe the compliance burden for small businesses would be too much.

Instead, the Government’s priority is where people gather in larger numbers, like casinos and concerts, or where mask wearing isn’t practical, such as cafes, bars and restaurants.  

This new mandate will come into effect seven days after any change in Alert Level settings that might allow more businesses to open. 

Weekend sees vaccine surge

One million New Zealanders have now been fully vaccinated with two Pfizer doses following a record weekend day of jabs.

Nearly 1600 Aucklanders received their vaccine via a drive-through site yesterday, while Dr Ashley Bloomfield also rolled his sleeve up for his first jab in Wellington. 

Experts told Stuff New Zealand is making “huge progress” on vaccinations with more than 70 per cent of Kiwis aged 40 and over either having received their first dose or booked in for a vaccine.

Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles says the current rate of vaccinations is “excellent” given the rollout has been dependent on a “globally restrictive” supply and that lots of people are taking up the offer to get vaccinated. Canterbury University’s Professor Michael Plank also says it’s “very encouraging” to see those numbers.

However, National Party Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop is unimpressed, saying a vaccine booking doesn’t protect against Delta.

National Party leader Judith Collins attacked the vaccine rollout over the weekend, too, saying the country is currently in lockdown because “the Government did not act with urgency to protect New Zealanders”.

ACT Party leader David Seymour also criticised the response to the Delta variant, telling TVNZ’s Q+A the Government was “unprepared” .

Meanwhile, epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker is calling on the Government to vaccinate all prisoners as soon as possible , given their “high-risk environment” through a pandemic.

He says vaccinating the prison population of 8000 people would help avoid further burdening the health system.  

Tough months ahead for NSW

The Delta variant continues to spread across the Tasman, with New South Wales reporting three more deaths and 830 new cases yesterday, another daily infection record .

Those spiking case numbers come as Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned the state must prepare for a “difficult” September and October

There have been tough times in Victoria also, as an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne turned violent . More than 200 people were arrested, while at least nine police officers had to be hospitalised.

Taliban thanks NZ

The Taliban has thanked New Zealand for offering support to Afghanistan, after our Government pledged $3 million in aid late last week.

In the group’s first sit-down interview since the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan, a top official told Al Jazeera's Charlotte Bellis, a New Zealand journalist, they wanted to say thank you. You can watch Bellis’ interview here .

Meanwhile, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has slammed the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, saying it has “every Jihadist group around the world cheering”. 

Other news of note this morning:

- US doctors say they’re seeing a spike in Covid cases among young adults and children as the Delta variant sweeps through unvaccinated populations there.

- Ten people are now dying from Covid-19 every day in Fiji.

- An economist says the Government’s wage subsidies are paying a great dividend ; however community groups say more young families are still asking for help through the current lockdown. 

- The Level 4 lockdown message is not getting through to some, with seven men caught jet boating near Wānaka on Friday and a lockdown bike ride near Taupō ending in a person needing to be winched to safety .

- Police are investigating a suspicious death after a person was found dead at a house in the Auckland suburb of Ōtāhuhu.

- A child has died after being struck by a vehicle on a private driveway in Auckland.

- Kiwi squash player Paul Coll has become the first New Zealand man to win the prestigious British Open .

- And The Wiggles have helped save the life of a Melbourne Covid patient with Down syndrome, filming a special video to convince her to use the oxygen tubes she desperately needed. No, I’m not crying, you are.

And finally...

Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield speak at a news conference

Look, we have to take the laughs where we can find them these days, and Chris Hipkins was kind enough to provide them during yesterday’s Covid-19 response press conference.

Speaking about people exercising during Level 4, the Minister had an unfortunate slip of the tongue, saying it’s a challenge for those in high-density areas to "get out and spread their legs" rather than stretch them.

The remark brought a grin and some raised eyebrows from Dr Ashley Bloomfield , while the rest of the country gleefully took to social media to celebrate the moment.

Anyway. For what it’s worth, here is what you can and can’t do while exercising at Level 4.