COMMUNITY CASES LATEST
* More community cases to be announced by officials today
* 69 locations of interest, the earliest of which goes back to August 3 – potentially signalling a much wider window of exposure
* Infected Air New Zealand crew member visited two Covid-infected countries in recent weeks
* Hundreds of Aucklanders turned away from roadblocks north and south of region slammed by police, community leaders
* From today, masks mandatory in certain locations and vaccine rollout recommences
* Hundreds of people will be stranded in Queenstown as window closes to return home
* Derek Cheng: No light at the end of the lockdown tunnel – yet
* Kate MacNamara: Government’s Covid spin spend masks a failure to deliver
Auckland is a city on edge as the list of potential exposure sites balloons to 76 and confirmation there will be more Covid-19 cases announced today.
As the country entered its second day of level-4 lockdown, queues at testing stations across Auckland snake for kilometres as those with cold-like symptoms or at any one of the 76 locations of interest seek swabs.
The new locations of interest include Countdown Takapuna, Dominos in Beach Haven, KFC Takapuna, an East Tamaki Z station, Hoyts Cinemas in Wairau Park and Movie Monterey in Takapuna.
There are now 10 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus after it emerged a 58-year-old Devonport tradesman tested positive for Covid on Tuesday. Most are aged in their 20s and were active in the community while infectious.
A total of 240 SkyCity staff members have been identified as close contacts and are now in isolation, after a person who tested positive for Covid visited the casino.
And the company estimates “around 1000” patrons were on the main gaming floor complex at the same time as the positive case in the early hours of Saturday morning.
SkyCity chief executive Michael Ahearne confirmed 240 of his staff were working on the main casino gaming floor between 1.15am and 3am – the time authorities say a positive case linked to Auckland’s latest cluster was there.
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“Public health authorities have advised that all these staff are considered close contacts and therefore have been advised to self-isolate, contact Healthline and get tested.
“SkyCity is in the process of contacting these staff to pass on public health advice.”
Ahearne said the gaming floor area spans more than 6000 square metres.
“Public health authorities have advised that all customers who were on the main gaming floor at the same time are deemed close contacts and are advised to stay home, watch for symptoms and get tested.”
Only “a very small number” of workers now remain on site carrying out essential duties such as security and surveillance and caring for a small number of guests staying at the SkyCity Grand Hotel, he said.
A specialist cleaning crew is due to arrive on site to carry out deep cleaning at SkyCity – including the entire main gaming floor area, all public lifts, handrails and back of house areas.
All surfaces will be sanitised and wiped down using an anti-bacterial product and the area is set to stay closed, he said.
The company is continuing to work closely with public health services in the meantime, Ahearne said, in a bid to provide necessary information for contact-tracing purposes.
“This is an anxious time for some of the SkyCity team and their whānau and we are extremely grateful to them for their co-operation in helping us protect the well-being of all our of our people and our guests.”
There is currently significant traffic congestion near Covid testing centres across Auckland and motorists are asked to expect delays and avoid the area around testing sites if they can.
Police are working with ATOC and traffic management plans are being put in place to ease this disruption.
Amongst the latest cases to be confirmed is an Air New Zealand crew member in her 60s who returned to New Zealand on a flight from Japan on August 15.
So far all bar the Air New Zealand flight crew, whose infection is believed to be related to the border, are linked.
But our country’s top health official this morning warned there will be new cases and there was “real potential” of widespread community spread of the virus given the young ages of those infected.
For the second day running those seeking Covid swabs are facing long delays at testing stations with lines backing up along city streets well before opening. Hundreds of cars were lined up the Northcote testing centre this morning while those at the Henderson testing centre face a 5km long wait.
The director of a community health clinic running four testing sites across Auckland warned people could expect long waits today.
“Our staff are moving as fast as they can,” said Whanau Ora director George Ngatai.
“What we want people to do is be a bit more patient … and be kind to our staff.”
There are now 76 exposure sites across Auckland and the Coromandel dating back to earlier this month that have been listed since the first case emerged on Tuesday.
They include two major malls, Albany Westfield and Lynmall, one of Auckland’s largest schools, a church, bars, supermarkets, entertainment spots including Sky City Casino and eateries.
It’s now feared the highly contagious Delta variant may have been in the country for more than two weeks with one location of interest from August 3.
This morning the Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, indicated there would be more cases.
“I’m expecting more cases from overnight,” Bloomfield said.
These would be revealed after he was fully briefed ahead of the 1pm Covid update.
The latest cases would involve household links to the existing 10 confirmed cases. Seventy per cent of Australia’s new Delta cases were from household cases, he said.
Bloomfield told NewstalkZB’s Mike Hosking: “I was interested in that 3 August location… I think it’s someone who has tested positive, but may have reported symptoms that went back, so they have been preacutionary and gone right back to the third of August.”
Wasterwater tests had not suggested any presence of Covid infection in Auckland “until at least last Wednesday”, Bloomfield said. There would be more wasterwater test results to talk about at 1pm today.
“The main thing is there’s a big increase in the locations of interest,”Bloomfield told RNZ.
It was important people, especially essential workers, looked at them and stayed home if they had been at any of those places.
Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker told Newstalk ZB the new date was remarkable and very worrying.
He said a more complex picture was emerging – of who was really the first case and who passed the virus to whom.
August 3 “really pushes back the start of this outbreak,” Baker said. “It is a more complex picture that is emerging here.
Bloomfield revealed he was now preparing lockdown advice for cabinet to consider tomorrow.
Police commissioner Andy Coster this morning told the AM Show police turned away about 200 Aucklanders fleeing their homes to travel to holiday homes on the Coromandel when lockdown was announced on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Air NZ boss Greg Foran said about 600 people would be stuck in Queenstown if the government didn’t extend its deadline for people to get home for specific regions.
Foran hoped to hear from the government soonabout whether they could be given an extra day to clear the backlog in the popular holiday destination.
“The reality is we moved many thousand yesterday, we’ve got 15,000 to move today and it would be fair to say that quite a bit of that is people getting back from the South Island to the North Island, particularly Auckland.”
Foran said the airline had engaged all its planes and put on more flights, but was expecting a “pinch point” in Queenstown.
Air NZ needed until early evening tomorrow to get people home from there.
Today new rules came into force that mades mask wearing mandatory for supermarkets, taxis and using other essential services.
Vaccination programmes were also set to restart after being suspended on Tuesday ,with anyone from any age group able to book and get the vaccination from September 1.
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