Auckland set for COVID switch on Nov 29

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jacinda Ardern's government is holding true to its reopening plans as New Zealand continues to notch unwelcome COVID-19 benchmarks.

On Monday, health officials announced the third death in a week, along with 190 new community cases of the virus.

The new crop of cases - including 182 in Auckland - come after 1000 last week, or a seventh of New Zealand's total infections in the pandemic.

The most recent death, of a recent arrival in a quarantine hotel, takes NZ's COVID-19 toll to 32.

The highwater mark for daily cases - 206 - was registered on Saturday, bringing a worrying record hospitalisation count of 81 on Monday.

The outbreak remains centred on Auckland, which will enter a 13th week of lockdown this week.

Despite the roaring case numbers, Aucklanders are set for new freedoms.

Ms Ardern's cabinet met on Monday and confirmed a decision to increase gathering sizes, and allow retail and public facilities like libraries and museums to reopen from Wednesday.

Top Kiwi COVID-19 modeller Shaun Hendy, a physics professor at the University of Auckland, said the relaxation of COVID-19 rules was coming before the peak of the outbreak.

"Relaxations are outpacing the vaccination program's ability to bring these case numbers down," he told Radio NZ.

"We're starting to get to the point where we will be putting severe strain on hospital beds and staffing capacity.

"We do need to put the brakes on at this point and have a rethink or we could be facing a much worse scenario."

Hendy said daily case counts of 1000 or more by Christmas were "possible".

"It is certainly consistent with some of the simulations we've done," he said.

Beyond this week's minor relaxations, cabinet will consider a broad shift on November 29 from the current system of lockdowns to a vaccine certificate system.

On that date, Ms Ardern said there was a "strong expectation", Auckland would move, granting fully vaccinated Kiwis many of their freedoms back.

While Auckland remains engulfed in the Delta outbreak - which arrived from NSW back in August - many regions, including Wellington, Tauranga and the South Island, remain without ongoing community transmission.

Ardern said the government was monitoring the spread of the virus, but reopening plans were not contingent on cases dropping.

"We already know based on all the projections we have that we will see cases rise in Auckland," she said.

"It's not just about cases now that we have a highly vaccinated environment."

As of Monday, 89 per cent of eligible Kiwis are at least partially vaccinated, and 78 per cent are double-dosed with the Pfizer vaccine.

Auckland is at 92 per cent partially vaccinated, and 83 per cent double-dosed.

The holiday season looms large for Kiwis, and many want assurances they will be able to travel around the country free of restrictions.

Under the current rules, the 1.7 million residents of NZ's biggest city are not allowed to leave Auckland without a travel exemption.

Ardern has assured all Kiwis they will be able to spend Christmas with loved ones - but the government is yet to confirm plans on how that will happen.

"We know people want to reunite before Christmas," she told TVNZ.

"Aucklanders must be able to move around beyond the border ... the question then becomes are there some mitigations that we can reasonably put in place to reduce down the risk of (transmission)."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting