Ardern optimistic despite long COVID tail

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealanders will have "a classic Kiwi summer" this year despite a persistent tail of COVID-19 cases in Auckland.

Health officials on Monday reported 12 new community cases, and promisingly all were isolating at home or in a quarantine facility.

The new cases come despite almost six weeks of lockdown for 1.7 million residents in the Auckland region.

"The seven-day rolling average of cases is 15, compared with 17 last week and 19 the week before that," Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.

"We are making progress."

Ms Ardern is holding onto hope the outbreak will be eliminated, saying cases were "a long tail".

Aucklanders are increasingly concerned they may not be able to enjoy the freedoms of last Christmas and summer, when New Zealand was blissfully COVID-free.

"There are some things we might have to do to make sure that can happen," Ms Ardern said, referring to increased inoculation rates and vaccine certificates which would allow jabbed Kiwis to head to venues and festivals, while banning the non-vaccinated.

"But yes, I can see us experiencing that. We did last summer and I hope we will be able to again."

Despite those hopes, New Zealand's current vaccination rates and testing regime give cause for concern.

While health workers administered the five millionth vaccine dose on the weekend, the number of Kiwis coming for their first doses is dropping.

One month ago - as the outbreak took hold - health workers were administering more than 50,000 first doses each day.

That figure has now dropped below 25,000 for five days straight.

Ms Ardern's government hopes to vaccinate every consenting adult New Zealander this year, setting an unofficial 90 per cent target.

As of Monday, 42 per cent of eligible Kiwis (those aged 12 and over) are fully vaccinated, with 75 per cent having received at least one dose.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said the government should consider enhanced testing to eliminate the Delta outbreak.

"We are not really getting any better," he told Radio NZ.

Dr Baker said health teams should doorknock streets where the virus has been identified, for testing and vaccination.

"It's down to that level of intensity of approach if we are really going to stamp out the virus in Auckland," he said.

The new cases bring the total in the current outbreak to 1177; 965 of whom have recovered. One person, an Auckland woman in her 90s with pre-existing health conditions, has died.

There are 13 Kiwis currently being treated in hospital for COVID-19, including four in intensive care.

On Monday, Ms Ardern released details for a self-isolation pilot scheme that will allow 150 travellers to replace a fortnight-long stay in a quarantine hotel with a spell in their own homes.

She also announced New Zealand would allow seasonal workers from three COVID-free Pacific countries to bypass quarantine from next month.

Workers from Vanuatu will be allowed in from October 4, with those from Samoa and Tonga to follow a week later.

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