Morning Briefing Aug 25: Delta 'unlike previous experience'

Anna Murray
Source: 1News

As statistics reveal the speed of Delta's spread through Auckland, officials call out the racist abuse being hurled at the community's latest Covid cases.

Testing for Covid-19

"It's like we're dealing with a whole new virus.”

Those are the words of Dr Ashley Bloomfield as New Zealand’s latest Covid outbreak demonstrates just how contagious the Delta variant is.

Another 41 Covid cases were reported in Aotearoa yesterday – 38 in Auckland and three in Wellington – bringing the outbreak total to 148.

Statistics comparing last year’s first Level 4 lockdown to this year’s shows the speed with which Delta moves. Last year it took a month to go from one to 100 cases – this time around it’s taken just six days.

Disease modelling expert Shaun Hendy says the country could see around 1000 cases during the current outbreak. 

New data about to be released by the Ministry of Health will also show whether New Zealand is wrestling back control of the virus .

Epidemiologist Michael Baker says the data should demonstrate if positive cases got Covid from within the community or within their bubble, and it should also break down the cases into demographics. Many of those affected in the current outbreak are under 30, with a child under one the youngest infected

And with nearly 16,000 close contacts now identified, Bloomfield says it’s “critical” people follow Level 4 rules and only leave home for essential reasons.

Hendy also called on New Zealanders to stick to their bubble and to not get discouraged. He says current cases are largely people who were infected prior to lockdown and that the country has successfully dealt with significant outbreaks before. 

“We think Alert Level 4 should be strong enough to contain [Delta], but it does depend on people doing their bit - sticking to the rules, sticking to their bubble,” he says.

“The more we follow those rules, the shorter this lockdown will be."

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MoH calls out racism

As the Delta outbreak deepens, two prominent sub-clusters have begun to emerge.

The second-largest sub-cluster, named the Birkenhead Social Group, currently has 23 cases tied to it.

The largest sub-cluster is that linked to a Samoan Assembly of God Church in Auckland, which consists of 58 cases so far. 

That revelation has again seen Auckland's Pacific community subjected to racist abuse, prompting the Ministry of Health to call for unity against the virus .

Auckland Councillor Fa'anana Efeso Collins says the abuse is a double standard , with racist insults directed at the Māngere church group, while the original case on Auckland’s North Shore was widely praised for getting tested. 

Dr Ashley Bloomfield has emphasised his appreciation for the wider Pasifika community on their collective response to the Delta outbreak, noting they have the highest testing rates among New Zealanders.

And with the South Auckland community again bearing the brunt of an outbreak, there are renewed calls for Pasifika and Māori to be prioritised for Covid vaccinations .

Businesses feeling the strain

Tens of thousands of businesses have already applied for new payments from the Government as they navigate their way through another Level 4 lockdown. 

And with the extended lockdown putting the already struggling events sector under even more pressure, there are now calls for Government-backed event insurance .

Since the Delta outbreak was confirmed last week, many events have been cancelled due to either being unable to operate under the current alert levels or general uncertainty leaving organisers with no choice but to postpone. 

ACT leader David Seymour says the Government needs to provide more certainty for mass events. He’s proposing a $50 million fund for events of more than 500 people to give event organisers a “security blanket” when planning. 

NSW outbreak claims youngest victim

A 30-year-old woman has become the latest victim of Sydney's Delta outbreak, the youngest person to die from Covid-19 in New South Wales .

The Sydney Morning Herald reports her husband is still battling the virus in hospital.

Seventy-five people have lost their lives since the start of the outbreak in the state, which still faces another month of lockdown. 

However, case numbers are decreasing there, with 753 detected yesterday, marking the second day in a row where cases have dropped.

NSW has also hit a major vaccine milestone , administering more than six million doses across the state. 

Concern over evacuations

As the New Zealand Defence Force releases images of their efforts in evacuating people from Afghanistan, Kiwis with family members still stuck in Kabul are growing increasingly frantic as a Taliban deadline approaches.

The BBC reports the Taliban is now saying Afghans shouldn’t go to Kabul Airport or try to leave the country. 

A Taliban spokesperson has also told reporters Afghanistan’s working women must stay home now , although he says that’s “a very temporary procedure” until systems are put in place to ensure their safety. 

Other news of note this morning:

- The nurses’ union says nurses who live with close contacts of Covid cases are being asked to turn up for work .

- Two members of the public that were being looked for as potential links in the current Delta outbreak have been found

- ANZ has rolled back some of the home loan rate increases it made last week prior to the Level 4 lockdown. 

- Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has died aged 80 .

- MBIE has apologised for upset caused over a tweet about pausing bookings on its MIQ booking system. 

- The Paralympics are officially underway following last night’s opening ceremony in Tokyo .

- The Ministry of Education and TVNZ are bringing back Home Learning TV/Papa Kāinga TV from 9am today. 

- As New Zealand Rugby reappoints Ian Foster as head coach for the All Blacks, the team has learned the four-nation Rugby Championship will conclude in Queensland this year .

- And Re: asks - with Delta spreading around the world, should young people kiss their OE goodbye?

And finally...

It’s choose-your-own-adventure time when it comes to today’s lighter news.

If you’re in need of something to balance out all the worrying headlines, I give you a Christchurch mum’s daily lockdown hobby of decorating a giant teddy bear out the front of her house or a group of dinosaurs lining up for their Covid vaccine in Waipu.

You choose. (Although I suggest choosing both.)