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Time for Auckland to go back to level four?

Written By: - Date published: 7:55 am, October 15th, 2021 - 114 comments
Categories: chris bishop, chris hipkins, covid-19, Deep stuff, health, national - Tags:

Tamaki Makaurau COVID-19 wastewater sample collection (click image to expand)

There was sobering news yesterday with 71 new cases of Covid being reported in Tamaki Makaurau.

Authorities have confirmed that the R value of the virus could be 1.2 to 1.3 and the gradual increase in numbers bears this out.  And ESR testing (pictured above) suggests a slow spread of the virus throughout Tamaki Makaurau.

I understand the rationale for the Government to go to level three and to then relax the restrictions even further.

Level four had reduced numbers but not to zero and the incidence of infections among sex workers, those struggling with housing issues and gang members meant that the part of the population most in need of protection and isolation were not going to get it.  And that the chances of the rules being adhered to were not good.

Chris Hipkins has described what happened.  From Derek Chen in the Herald:

Public health experts said last week there was still a diminishing chance of returning to zero cases in Auckland, but Hipkins said that hope slipped away about three weeks ago.

“When we got into those single figures [in daily case numbers], I thought, ‘Yes, we might just do this’.

“That was the tipping point. When we started to climb back out of those single figure cases, which we only sustained for one or two days, it started to become clear. That was also the point at which it got into those very hard-to-reach parts of the community.”

That was also just after the move from level 4 to level 3 in Auckland, but Hipkins insists that staying in level 4 would not have seen a return to zero cases.

“The biggest increase in cases has been from indoor social gatherings [including at level 4]. Level 4 and level 3 only work if people voluntarily comply.”

I get that.  But we are in a race against time.

What has caused the diminishing of the public response to the lockdown?  Fatigue and tiredness have played their part.  And the unrelenting negativity of National and its social media branch Newstalk ZB have had their effect.  If ever there was a time for a single message from the parties in Government this was it.  What we have had instead is relentless attacks and negativity and repeated claims of failure when even now our performance is still world beating.

There will also be questions about the recent injection of John Key into the debate.  Clearly the right in our community had decided that enough was enough and that garage wine sessions and overseas travel were more important than containing a pandemic.  But he needed to be stared down.  His concerns, in the midst of a pandemic that could result in thousands of kiwis losing their lives were trivial.

There have been many criticisms of the speed of the vaccination program.  But Aotearoa is now in the top half of OECD nations for having received at least one jab.  And second jabs tend to follow pretty quickly.

Covid-19 vaccinations (click image to expand)

As well as this our vaccinations per head of population continue to top the OECD.

International comparisons for COVID-19 vaccinations (click image to expand)

And just a reminder, it is not the early stages of a race you have to win, it is the last stages.

Clearly we need to get the vaccination rates up to 90% at least before we can breathe easy or at least easier.

Japan may offer an answer to how to handle Covid delta.  During the Olympics it had a significant tick up in Covid cases but this has now been turned around.  The Guardian has this commentary:

Just days after the Tokyo Olympics drew to a close, Japan appeared to be hurtling towards a coronavirus disaster. On 13 August, the host city reported a record 5,773 new Covid-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant. Nationwide the total exceeded 25,000.

Soaring infections added to resentment felt by a public that had opposed the Olympics, only to be told they could not watch events in person due to the pandemic. Hospitals were under unprecedented strain, the shortage of beds forcing thousands who had tested positive to recuperate – and in some cases die – at home.

The then prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who had ignored his own chief health adviser in pushing ahead with the Games, was forced to step down amid stubbornly low approval ratings. A state of emergency in the capital and other regions that had been in place for almost six months looked likely to be extended yet again.

Yet something remarkable has happened in Japan in the two months since Emperor Naruhito declared the Games closed.

This week, almost a fortnight since emergency measures were finally lifted, new infections continue to plummet in Tokyo and across the country. While parts of Europe, including Britain, struggle to contain cases – despite a modest decline globally since August – infections in Japan have fallen to their lowest levels in more than a year, triggering optimism that the worst may be over for the world’s third-biggest economy.

On Monday, Tokyo reported 49 cases, the lowest daily figure since late June last year, while the nationwide count was 369.

Experts say no single factor can explain the extraordinary turnaround in Japan’ fortunes.

But there is broad consensus that after a frustratingly slow start, its vaccination rollout has transformed into an impressive public health campaign that has met with little of the resistance that has slowed the rollout in the US, despite Japan’s complicated historical relationship with inoculations.

Another factor cited by experts is the widespread wearing of masks – a habit ingrained during pre-pandemic flu seasons. As other countries drop requirements for face coverings in indoor and other settings, most Japanese still shudder at the thought of venturing out maskless.

Japan’s success suggests that the other stuff, mask wearing, social distancing and washing your damned hands, can all make a difference.  And I do not think it coincidental that the three best performing nations, Taiwan, China and Japan are Asian, with good community commitment to public health messages and to following the rules.

Aotearoa New Zealand is close.  A couple of more weeks of vaccinations could get us tantalising close to herd immunity or at least to a level of population indifference to the virus that will arrest its damage.

The chilling statistic yesterday was that half of the daily infection cases were Maori.  The Crown, our state promised 181 years ago to protect that which was most important to Maori.  Life and good health must be part of this.  The handling of the pandemic is a Treaty of Waitangi claim waiting to be filed.

My preference at the time that we moved to level 3 was for us to stay at level 4.  My current preference is that they reimpose level four for Tamaki Makaurau for a couple of weeks.  Vaccination rates are really good, but we need to get the vaccination rate higher.  Maybe level four will not get us back to elimination.  But it will buy us some more time.

We are close but not there yet.  We need to get the damned daily infection rate in Tamaki Makaurau down and we need to make sure the rest of the country either gets back to zero infections or retains their covid free status.  Maybe it is time for a two week return to a level four lockdown.

114 comments on “Time for Auckland to go back to level four? ”

  1. What is the point of locking down 1.8 million people when there are an increasing number of rule breakers having parties in their lounges. Going back to L4 will make no difference, apart from making everyone more miserable.

    • Patricia Bremner 1.1

      Parties or prayer meetings the outcome is the same. We need to show by actions we want to protect all citizens and residents. We need to be encouraging the hesitant and scared by doing as we are on Saturday, making vaccination a triumph over bad covid.

    • Bearded Git 1.2

      Complete rubbish Robo. L4 means that there will 300,000 less people moving around Akl working, most of them construction workers.

      That will make a huge difference

    • weka 1.3

      because it lowers the risk. Some people having parties is less risky than lots of people having parties.

      Whether that is worth the misery is a different question.

      Myself, given the vaccine isn't a cure all, I think we should be adapting around periodic lockdowns and how to make them more bearable.

      • roblogic 1.3.1

        I'm increasingly anti-lockdown. It's a desperate measure when there are no other suitable public health responses. We should be aiming for public health/ legal environment that makes vaccination a pre-requisite to participating in society (with medical exemptions).

        So not exactly "forced" but anyone refusing to take the jab having to deal with the consequences of their own poor choices, rather than imposing the cost of "free-dumb" on everyone else.

        • McFlock 1.3.1.1

          Except it's not just them affected, is it? That's not how diseases work. they need medical care and might infect others in whom the virus was not 100%, or the very few who unequivocally have contraindications.

          Unless you plan to throw them all in an oubliette and if anyone manages to crawl out a few weeks later, good for them. But even that takes resources.

          • roblogic 1.3.1.1.1

            We had a lockdown when there was no vaccine and no other choice. People in a free society will not consent to being under indefinite house arrest. I am increasingly sympathetic to my lawyer friend who is worried we are on a pathway to tyranny.

            Weighing up the chance of catching a disease, and the certainty of having no life while in lockdown. I am tired of having no life.

            • McFlock 1.3.1.1.1.1

              It's interesting how the more tired of lockdown people get, the more they start to worry about tyranny.

              Have you weighed up the chance of a loved one being in an accident but not getting appropriate medical care because ED and ICU are overloaded with covid cases, not all of whom were hesitant?

              • roblogic

                Christmas is cancelled. Stay home until 2022. Bah humbug!

                Intolerable.

                • weka

                  what I don't get is the idea that the vaccine programme will make us relatively bullet proof. I have my doubts about this even at 95% vax rate. I've seen various assessments of efficacy (which suggest that we don't actually know yet), here's one,

                  The results, published in a preprint on 19 August1, suggest that both vaccines are effective against Delta after two doses, but that the protection they offer wanes with time. The vaccine made by Pfizer in New York City and BioNTech in Mainz, Germany, was 92% effective at keeping people from developing a high viral load — a high concentration of the virus in their test samples — 14 days after the second dose. But the vaccine’s effectiveness fell to 90%, 85% and 78% after 30, 60 and 90 days, respectively.

                  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02261-8

                  What happens with the next variant? Even for those with high faith in development of further, more highly effective vaccines, on the ground, there are still the pragmatic issues of vaccinating everyone on a kind of rolling schedule to keep ahead. I think that the number of people willing to have a new vaccine every year or every six months will be below the rate we need to keep each vaccine highly effective. Vaccine fatigue alongside lockdown fatigue.

                  At this point I would make a very strong case for keeping covid out of the SI but that requires a stronger degree of suppression in the NI. This might work if we were looking at things like relocalising the economies and preparing for/mitigating climate change in proactive and forward looking ways. Lockdown then becomes a tool, which is improved on what it is now. I think lockdown is so shitty past the first few weeks because we're treating it as a temporary measure rather than a tool that needs to be honed over time. We should be figuring out how to do that honing now rather than just expecting people to suck it up.

                  If we don't do that forward looking, creative, people-centred approach, if people want to go back to normal even though we cannot go back to normal, then I think we will end up like Australia but with Māori and Pasifica people bearing the brunt. Possibly cycles of lockdowns, deaths and long covid, and pressure on health systems.

                  I guess my other question is, is there any country with a successful vaccination programme yet, or is it too soon, and what does that look like. I'm not talking about vax rates, I'm talking about how well it's working at the societal level across all those issues.

                  • Stuart Munro

                    Probably too soon to know – but according to the CDC

                    was a successful intervention. I'd prefer 99.7% myself – three standard deviations.

                    • weka

                      not sure we can compare polio and covid in that way. Polio is a one off set of vaccines and afaik immunity lasts a lifetime. Does polio produce new variants?

                      So why the comparison?

                  • Stuart Munro

                    So why the comparison?

                    If you're looking for a rough guide to what a successful herd immunity vaccination program during a pandemic might look like, there aren't so many choices of examples.

                    Somewhere north of 90%, with double or multiple doses worked for polio – it's a plausible baseline for what might succeed with Covid. The variant issue may complicate things – but in general, mass vaccination reduces the probability of successful mutation, reducing the speed at which new variants appear. No guarantee of protection against new variants from large infected populations like India of course.

                    • weka

                      I don't like the comparison because it gives people a false sense of what the covid vaccine does.

                • McFlock

                  The xmas period generally sees a wee spike in injuries needing hospital attention, if I recall correctly.

                  Might want some beds free to handle that.

                • Patricia Bremner

                  Peace robologic. Death is a permanent state. Supposed tyranny is just that.. supposed. I can't see Jacinda letting that be a permanent state.

                  We will have our holiday, we will have treats, just not as many as usual. Perhaps Christmas dinner will be outside to limit possible exposure. I don't think we will be locked down over Christmas.

                  This is intolerable, keeping families and friends apart, but we have not lost anyone to covid in our family or friends. (Some family cases in NSW) so we are thankful for what has been done in the face of a difficult foe.

                  This has happened before with spanish 'flu polio virus and tuberculosis. We did not become dictatorships. People feared the same then. "government has too much power over our lives."

                  You are allowed to be upset and angry (we all are at times).

                  I feel better after a simple haircut. Treat yourself in some way, this has been a "high state of alert" for 2 years. A break or treat is necessary to help mental health. Keep well kiakaha.

                  • weka

                    We will have our holiday, we will have treats, just not as many as usual. Perhaps Christmas dinner will be outside to limit possible exposure.

                    Can't help but feel there is a missed opportunity here. Adapting to covid by doing more things outside is a fantastic idea bringing multiple benefits. I'm thinking education as well. Imagining schools growing forests and planting parks for class rooms. Communities creating more outside spaces for all weathers.

                    This is intolerable, keeping families and friends apart

                    I think about my people who came out to NZ mostly in the 1860s, and left the rest of their families behind, never to see them again. Not saying the situations are the same, but I do think how we think about the situation plays into how we experience it. Atm we are doing things hard because we see them as temporary measures that will soon be over. Lockdown for some people is less of a hardship, why is that?

                    • RedLogix

                      And given that COVID mortality is so closely correlated with a range of co-morbidities (something our media seems peculiarly silent about) – it's also an opportunity to look at public health in a far more holistic fashion.

                      In essence if we had fewer people with conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, anxiety disorders – as well as a long list of others – we would be assured of reducing our potential IFR rates to a small fraction by this measure alone.

                      I accept this doesn't help the immediate prospect – but in the longer run this has to be one of our better bets.

  2. GreenBus 2

    The original plan to eliminate covid was a winner, seen as a winner by all covid ridden countries and nearly all our own people. Except for the “open up” brigade. That’s National, Act and their supporters in the main. On the fringes we have the anti vaxxers and covid deniers. This once small group have swelled in size and are very vocal. Between them a constant barrage of bleating and whinging about covid restrictions have taken it’s toll on the Labour Govt and the PM in particular. It looks like the Govt has given up the fight and will ‘let it rip’ to shutdown the criticism from these right wing groups. A lack of backbone? Yes it looks like it. The plan ‘B’ to live with Covid doesn’t exist. We are all in for the Natz/Act version of a covid response. This will turn from the best response to one of the worst. Hunker down people this is gonna turn to custard. I look forward to the response from right wing supporters on how we live with covid and run the economy.
    NZ is not prepared for this, at all.

    • Cricklewood 2.1

      No, we are in the Labour version of a covid response. They're a majority govt, decisions around response sit entirely with them. Would be interesting to know why we had such a sudden pivot wonder if it was focus group led?

      • Patricia Bremner 2.1.1

        I think there came a division among the advisors group. Hendy was put up to tell us the likely situation as they feared groups were creating mixing and mingling of households. The Picnic "safer outside" idea makes sense in that situation. imo

        There was a huge kick back in opposition ranks and the press and media. "Elimination is over" Destiny Church and others protested "Freedoms"

        Vaccination became the only game in town, and the european style roll-out showed inequities and the token engagement with a large portion of our population who have co-morbidities and a large younger population. So yes late out the gate with meeting our Treaty partner's needs. Ethnocentrism is hard to combat.

    • chris T 2.2

      I would argue it wasn't a winner. It was just a necessity given the snails pace the govt has rolled out the vaccine.

      Now given our vaccinated rates are so high and the spread is starting look a tad exponential, I think going back to level 4 would'nt make a huge amount of impact, unless you happen to be a small business currently on the bare bones of your arse trying to make ends meet while at 3 let alone 4.

      • GreenBus 2.2.1

        50.1% fully vaccinated is no match for Delta. Getting to 90% will be nigh on impossible, given the size of the anti-vax/covid deniers group. Time will tell and that is in short supply.

        • chris T 2.2.1.1

          Depends whether by the 90% "It is not a target! We never called it a target! Targets are evil!" the govt means one shot or two. There is not a lot of clarity on which.

        • SPC 2.2.1.2

          It's 65% in Auckland for 2 doses and reaching 85% for first dose. They might get close to 90/90 by December. Other areas are a bit of a mix, some will also get to 90/90 late in the year but not all.

          https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-data-and-statistics/covid-19-vaccine-data#group

          • Forget now 2.2.1.2.1

            For over 12s who are eligible for the vaccine! We can't claim 90% coverage and not factor that in – soon that will have to be dropped to school and kindy aged children (whose parents don't want to home school). Then we can claim to be getting close to 90%. At the moment NZ is on more like 70% first dose, 50% 2nd – the 84% 1st dose nationwide average omits those.

            Also, people can chose to voluntarily observe level 4 restrictions in outbreak hotspots. They don't have to wait for the government to force them to do so. It won't be as effective as a rigourously enforced lockdown, but; if you care about the health of your community, it is something you can do now without waiting. My whanau over in Sydney sure aren't joining the Kmart queues or heading out to the pubs just yet!

            • lprent 2.2.1.2.1.1

              There are vaccinations going in in several countries now for under 12s with various vaccines. Ummm.. discussion here

              Last month Pfizer has said that they are seeking approval from the US FDA after testing in 5-11yo. I'd expect that they are or will soon seek that from Medsafe as well.

              Somewhere I read about studies on the transmission rates between kids and to and from adults with Delta.

              From memory, it does happen. But appears to be strongest in the adult to children direction, and minimal in child to child and child to adult. Kids immune systems tend to be be much better at dealing with new diseases than the adults tired old immune systems. It is an obvious evolutionary advantage to do so bearing in mind their relatively limited immunity 'memory' at birth.

              If someone could dig out a link to those studies or discussion of them, I'd be grateful (I'm meant to be working).

              As Starship hospital says (my italics):-


              In the first waves of the COVID-19 pandemic it was apparent that children, particularly younger children, have a lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV2 compared to adults and potentially play a lesser role in transmission at a population level.

              The emergence of more infectious variants of SARS-CoV2, in particular Delta variant, alongside increasingly vaccinated adult populations, is changing this understanding and there is evidence of increasing COVID-19 infections in children and transmission between age groups.

              COVID-19 still appears to remain mostly a mild and/or asymptomatic disease in younger children.

              All of which points to the priority being to vaccinate the adult population first as being a higher danger to children and then look at the safety of the vaccines on children. In the meantime restrict the exposure of kids to large numbers of adults – pretty much what we are doing under level 3/4.

              • Forget now

                From what I recall; the older the person, the greater the proportion of cloudy memory T-cells in their immune system (named for how they look in a microscope). These seem to be to be the ones which are already remembering an antigen to alert the body to. So it is not so much that adults have tired old immune systems (however it may feel), more that they have already seen some shit and have limited interest in new things. The predominance of clear memory T-cells in children mean that they can better react to new threats, but don't have the accumulated immunity wisdom of their seniors.

                Anyway, isn't the age linked susceptibility behind the phased roll-out from Groups 2-3 (over 65 amongst other) up to the present Group 4 general population free for all (over 12). That stands at (per thousand):

                12 – 19 years 1st Dose 730 2nd Dose 361 (ie 36.1%)

                20 – 34 years 1st Dose 751 2nd Dose 422

                35 – 49 years 1st Dose 821 2nd Dose 546

                50 – 64 years 1st Dose 877 2nd Dose 719

                64 years+ 1st Dose 938 2nd Dose 871

                https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-data-and-statistics/covid-19-vaccine-data

                So those elder Aotearoans who are most at risk of serious illness are pretty well protected already (including even Maori). The question is really whether it is better to use remaining Pfizer vaccines as boosters to the older population (and some data suggests a different vaccine might be better there), or to immunize the children? Unvaccinated children may not be as likely to get the disease in the first place (or pass it on), but also will have no protection against the more severe consequences if they do. Whereas, even 6 months on (which it's getting on for) Group 2 vaccinated elders should still be pretty well protected against hospitalization if less so against infection.

              • Robert Guyton

                " younger children, have a lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV2 compared to adults and potentially play a lesser role in transmission at a population level." because they're snottier. Mucus barriers to viruses work better when there's an abundant supply of hūpē. Old people are too dry 🙂

              • Cricklewood

                It does interest me that at this stage they are talking about the vaccine in 5-12 year olds in terms of immune response not is it actually beneficial in terms outcome in comparison with exposure to the wild virus.

                Apprently those results are still some time away.

    • Enough is Enough 2.3

      Does any of your comment make sense?

      "Nearly all our own people" except "National, Act and their supporters". So nearly all our people except the the 1/3 that support the opposition.

      The government is owning their decisions as they should. So it is very weird that this narrative is coming in that the weakest opposition in history is somehow now running our COVID strategy. The National "made us do it" line is pathetic.

      • Gypsy 2.3.1

        Yep. It seems to be becoming the go-to excuse for failure.

        • In Vino 2.3.1.1

          You conveniently ignore the loud media presence of certain right-wing elements who see themselves as leaders of public opinion, and the media which keep pushing their ideas.

          That loud media chorus can actually drown out the 1pm performances that seem to be resented by the Right. The Right have certainly influenced policy, manipulating public opinion to the point where maybe Majority Govt does actually start thinking about polls and trends.

          Bluff, counterbluff… hardly the way to run a good medical programme.

      • Herodotus 2.3.2

        So who is advising the govt other than National and Act ?? Because expert groups that were setup originally are being left out of the decision process.
        An observation from being in Auckland. The consent of the public is being lost as we see that level 3 step 1 is increasingly being expanded by the interpretation from the pop.

        "But that announcement wasn’t based on advice from the advisory group, members say. Some say they were blindsided by last week’s announcement…" and "The group consists of 12 experts on virology, pathology, epidemiology and Māori and Pacific health."

        https://www.1news.co.nz/2021/10/13/covid-advisory-group-members-shocked-not-to-be-consulted-on-aucklands-covid-stages/

      • Patricia Bremner 2.3.3

        The meme about the weakest opposition is rubbish. The weakest National Party yes, but combined they are about 40% and very vocal in media.

        • Enough is Enough 2.3.3.1

          Really?

          I can't think of a more useless and ineffective opposition in history. Seymour is the most effective one on that side and that really tells you something and how bad they are.

          If the government is making decsions on the basis of comments made by the opposition, then we have a very week government. And I don't think that is true.

          • chris T 2.3.3.1.1

            "I can't think of a more useless and ineffective opposition in history."

            How quickly people forget Labour before the Ardern fluke. Lol

            • Enough is Enough 2.3.3.1.1.1

              COVID aside, this governent has more or less struggled to turn anything around or deliver on their core promies.

              Yet they are still as popular as they are.

              So yes this is the most useless opposition in history. They have genuine things they can hammer the government over but fail every day to land anything. Hopeless in the extreme.

              • chris T

                ??

                The Nats are sitting on the same poll % as Labour were before Little caved and Ardern fluked.

                • McFlock

                  Not quite.

                  And Labour had sort of languished in the high 20s for a while, whereas the nats currently are still in a downward curve.

                  But I'm sure the nats have the government right where they want them, and will pounce at any moment.

                  • chris T

                    Doubt it. The MPs will be shitting themselves, like the Labour ones were pre Ardern,

                    Same siituation. Shit leader

                    • McFlock

                      Little was actually pretty good – got the caucus all working together, coherent policy platform, etc.

                      Just didn't connect with the public. How much of that was Labour's recent history just vs being basically the same as English in the media I don't know. But lively positivity sure changed the atmosphere from the dull and earnest bureaucratism of English and Little.

                      I'm not sure all National caucus are working on the same playbook as Collins, and I'm not sure they have anyone who can change the atmosphere.

                  • chris T

                    "I'm not sure all National caucus are working on the same playbook as Collins, and I'm not sure they have anyone who can change the atmosphere."

                    Was thinking about this the other day. Agree totally with both your points.

                    And I can't think of anyone who could turn it round at the moment.

                    Bridges has been tried and found wanting. Maybe Mark Mitchell could perk it up for a bit, but only to a certain level, not near enough to turn it all around. He is basically the Nats Stuart Nash.

          • Cricklewood 2.3.3.1.2

            Agreed outside of Act the opposition is woeful and thats actually a really bad thing given the situation we find ourselves in. End of the day it's a majority government all decisions good and bad sit with Labour and Labour alone. Lets not pretend otherwise.

          • Patricia Bremner 2.3.3.1.3

            They govern for all don't they? Or do you think the opposition don't count? I am Labour but I believe in unity in the face of a grave threat. I expect the government to consider all possibilities and then make the best possible decision. This is a NEW threat. 2 years of flack, no real rest and pressure builds.

  3. Adrian 3

    What can you do, even a Prime Ministerial visit and a well advertised vax clinic in Murupara has it at the bottom of the league table for vaccinations according to RNZ this morning. One of the problems is apparently the local anti-vax doctor.

    • Patricia Bremner 3.1

      The Medical Council is doing what in the face of such attitudes.??? If his patients sicken and die???

      • Craig Hall 3.1.1

        Following the law, one assumes. Privacy Act makes it difficult to announce ongoing investigations until there is an outcome.

  4. higherstandard 4

    Herd immunity is not achievable with current vaccines.

    It is debatable whether return to full lockdown would be feasible as there is a small but significant proportion of the population who don't give a damn about any restrictions.

    • Enough is Enough 4.1

      Yes. Lockdown success relies heaviliy on almost universal buy in from the public. The police have a job but our success to date has been down to people follwing the rules.

      Auckland has by my count had 138 days of lockdown since March 23 2020. It is unfortunate, but enetirely understandable that after that many days stuck at home there will be fatigue, and more and more chnace of people having enough and going and seeing people in breach of the rules

    • lprent 4.2

      Herd immunity is not achievable with current vaccines.

      And to make the picture even bleaker and accurate – you need to extend that out a little further into reality.

      Everything I have seen so far indicates that herd immunity is not likely with people just getting COVID-19 and surviving it either. It will just keep recurring for generations to come.

      Herd immunity against this disease, its variants, and the other species in its family is only likely to occur after the human genotype as a population develops a much stronger set of immune responses. Which is what the bat populations, where this particular corona virus can from, have done. That process of natural selection is one of massive deaths. I'm not sure that most of our civilisations are capable of withstanding the requirement of getting to herd immunity by natural selection and its short-term need to drop to much smaller communities and connectivity.

      While we don't have a sterilising vaccine or currently a viable released treatment (although the new Merck one looks interesting), we do have pretty effective vaccines and a set of health processes to contain widespread outbreaks that break our health systems. That buys us time to develop a sterilising vaccine, more effective treatments, change our societies to reduce risk (like permanently restricting air-travel or changing disease collaborators behaviour), or increase our health systems to cope with higher base levels of disease.

      That is good enough – and the most effective of these strategies are what we should keep pushing for.

  5. Maurice 5

    On the bright side – the population reduction will help with climate change mitigation. (/sarc)

  6. Adrian 6

    At the start of the anti-Covid campaign I remember the Govt saying that any vaccine roll out was going to be problematic when it got to the last 10% of the population. In other words the dickheads will always be with us. The only people to blame for the sickness and death are the unvaccinated.

    • Nic the NZer 6.1

      Odd, even Hendys most optimistic analysis suggests lockdown+vaccination would perform even better again.

  7. Ed 7

    The government has allowed itself to be swayed by the chattering classes, the business community, the tourism and hospitality industries and the news media.

    The first mistake, as Chris Trotter, explains so lucidly, was the opening of the Trans-Tasman Bubble. That decision showed it could be swayed by pressure.

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2021/10/will-jacinda-stand-or-has-she-already.html

  8. SPC 8

    The MOH deputy put it that the management of clusters would be difficult at around 180 cases a day.

    So they would want to be at 90% vaccination levels in Auckland (guess around 1 December) before it got into the hundreds a day category (then relying on the vaccination level to keep hospitalisations down).

    It'll be around 150 the end of the month. A couple of weeks to take it back down to 100 by mid month. And we'll be transferring to relying on the vaccination level in December with numbers c200.

    I hope the plan has a rapid testing (15 minute result) system around hospitals and other medical facilities and boosters for those vulnerable vaxxed by mid year (and health workers in that category).

  9. Enough is Enough 9

    I don't think level 4 will work any better than level 3. The spread is taking place in peoples homes with vistitors (which is not allowed at level 3).

    If people are meeting in breach of rules now, why would they stop meeting up at level 4?

    • Puckish Rogue 9.1

      Agreed.

    • Bearded Git 9.2

      Level 4 has 300,000 less people working in Akl including all construction workers. Of course it will work better than L3.

      The “L3 is L4 with takeaways” widely disseminated was always complete bollocks.

      • Enough is Enough 9.2.1

        There is no wide spread (or even any reported ) infection through construction. Where are you getting that from?

        As Grant confirmed yesterday, the spread of the virus is through household contacts and people visiting other peoples homes. The visiting is not permitted under either level, so why do you think those people will start obeying the rules at level 4?

        • Bearded Git 9.2.1.1

          So you are saying none of those 300,000 and all of the suppliers and deliverers to construction are not infected? You have to be kidding. Construction was one of the key vectors in Oz.

  10. observer 10

    No, we should not go to Level 4.

    I live in Covid HQ … Central Auckland, where many locations of interest are shops and places that I visit (although less currently, for self-protection).

    Level 3 or 4 makes no difference to the "hard to reach communities" mentioned in the OP. They are not on the streets having picnics, they are simply on the streets. It's a tragedy that Auckland CBD is populated by so many marginalised people, but that is the result of long-term homelessness and other failures, over many years. Now Covid has been found in entirely predictable places, like Zest apartments (slums), the convenience stores with beggars slumped outside, and the City Mission.

    I suppose the police could round them all up and put them … where? On an island? And is that even what we want a NZ government to do? (It's a rhetorical question, obviously). Isolation at home? What home?

    "We wouldn't have started from here" is the easy but pointless answer. From the real here, we just have to keep testing, tracing, treating and hoping that the vaccination rates will keep it under control.

    I'll get my test result tomorrow.

    • Patricia Bremner 10.1

      Good health to you Observer. Yes with test kits we will all get to watch the results of "going out".

    • Bearded Git 10.2

      Observer…see my posts above re the extra 300,000 potential virus spreaders that are permitted in L3 but not in L4.

  11. Ad 11

    Containment would be the first line.

    Resthomes outside of Auckland are planning for a nationwide outbreak in which they will bar anyone other than staff from entering. That's a lot of desperate people locked in, and out. If they manage to contain this outbreak to Auckland it will be a miracle.

    Containment within Auckland would be the second line.

    Inside Auckland we are just below 90% vaccinated per 1,000 people. We are likely to get into the early 90% range within the end of October.

    I'm less convinced now that the level 4 genie can be put back even if we wanted it to. I'm more convinced that we simply need more Police on the road patrolling our movements inside Auckland.

    Kindness has come to its limit.

    • Ed 11.1

      I'm more convinced that we simply need more Police on the road patrolling our movements inside Auckland.

      Agreed Ad .

    • Patricia Bremner 11.2

      Australia used the Army in places.

    • weka 11.3

      Inside Auckland we are just below 90% vaccinated per 1,000 people. We are likely to get into the early 90% range within the end of October.

      Isn't that first dose. Are people thinking we can rely on that?

  12. Anne 12

    If they chose to consider a short, sharp lockdown 4 in Auckland it won't happen until after the vaxathon. They will not want to put any impediment in the way of people getting out and vaccinated this week-end. I'm sure that has priority. The figures over the next few days will be crucial to any decision on Monday.

    • Enough is Enough 12.1

      The vaxathon itself brings with it transmission risk.

      For 1 day only if you are not vaccinated, the stay at home message dissapears and you are encouraged to attend one of several public events.

    • Treetop 12.2

      I would redo this (Super Saturday Shot) on Halloween.

      What would you go as?

      I'd be a Covid virus cell.

      • Treetop 12.2.1

        Socially distanced Screamathon Sunday.

      • gsays 12.2.2

        At 2.46 there is a shell that looks like an artist's impression of the Covid virus.

        • Treetop 12.2.2.1

          What a stunning display. I watched the whole thing.

          Guy Fawkes 5 November is 20 days after Super Saturday Shot. Due to two jabs being required I would hold a second socially distanced vaccination weekend 6 – 7 November.

          Catering for the younger age bands it is important to reach them. I am not sure how consent works for those under 18. It has been a bit confusing with the 3 week gap between vaccinations, then a 6 weeks gap and back to at least a 3 week gap.

  13. Forget now 13

    This is pretty ugly, but does neatly illustrate the tension between those attempting to comply with the rules, and others willing to exploit vulnerable people for their own self-interest. Leaving it up to private businesses does not seem to be a winning strategy:

    Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said… "What we're finding is that there are a whole lot of people who are fraudulently claiming to have a mask exemption, and people are getting really quite abusive and aggressive with retail workers when [they're] asking them to put a mask on."

    Last week, a worker at a Blenheim organisation that provides photocopying services told RNZ they fielded dozens of requests to print off illegitimate exemption documents in just a single day.

    Groups are also providing information online about how to exploit the system to get a card.

    Disabled Persons Assembly NZ chief executive Prudence Walker said she was gutted and lost for words that people were abusing the system… is one of the main organisations tasked with administering exemptions. It has granted 8000 in the past two months.

    Walker said there has been a recent increase in illegitimate attempts to get documentation.

    Meanwhile, she said lots of people with legitimate exemptions have told her organisation they have felt bullied into revealing incredibly personal information to convince shopkeepers to let them enter their stores unmasked.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/453574/increase-in-people-exploiting-mask-exemptions-while-vulnerable-people-denied-entry-to-shops

    I have seen people online boasting about their fake mask-exemption cards; which seems truly loathsome to me. But also entirely predicable, given overseas examples. Vaccine certificates had better take more than a simple photocopier to fake! I haven't looked at the site yet because living down in PAL2 Dunedin, any restrictions are fairly minor.

  14. Treetop 14

    I would do a 3.5 for 2 weeks. Stay at home, no crossing the border for work. Be able to buy a contactless take away. 2 nominated visitors only allowed in your tight bubble.

    Free to Air TV stations could have provided good movies and craft ideas. As well as wellness strategies.

    I would distribute fresh fruit and veges to homes. Children eat so much when at home.

  15. coreyjhumm 15

    Yep. Auckland Waikato and northland should go to level 4 for four to six weeks. Rest of NZ should be at level 2 or 3 and unless you're a double vaxxed truck driver or essential service region to region travel absolutely banned even between covid regions to give regions time to vax up.

    Even if policies like that only buy us a couple of weeks that's a couple of weeks to get vaccinations up, to keep our hospitals freed up, to prepare.

    A firestorm is coming and We're kindling. Especially our poor and vulnerable and the disinformation people are gasoline.

    One of the reasons this lockdown was so much more difficult atleast in my circles, than last year's was expectation.

    Last year government was up front and brilliant from the beginning, we knew it'd be a minimum of four weeks, this lockdown in August the PM kept telling us "it'll be three days and we'll review on Friday" then on Friday "we'll review on Monday " then on Monday "we're keeping the restrictions till Friday" etc and each time people got their hopes up and were heartbroken , frustrated and angry when the restrictions weren't relaxed, we all knew that it'd be longer than three days but some of us held out hope perhaps the govt knew something we didn't …

    Oh how I wish they said from day one "we're going into nation wide lockdown for atleast four weeks" and most importantly something that was a brilliant communication from the pm last year but wasn't said this year "act like you have covid" it was a great saying.

    I genuinely think the govt didn't want to spook the horses so kept saying "three days" which morphed into weeks. Every time the govt extended it it felt like a blow, if we were told from day one it was gonna be four weeks minimum I know I personally and my friends would have been able to get over it rather than getting our hopes up every three days to a week.

    I think last years covid messaging will be be studied by previous generations and the slight differences between this year's messaging will be contrasted.

    Please everyone get vaccinated. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, don't be a twat about it, listen to them, tell them how much you care about them, that no it doesn't stop you getting the virus but it will stop you from getting critically ill and dying, be nice to them not lecturing, we face an unprecedented crisis and we're all in this together. I don't want to see my friends family, neighbors and fellow kiwis dying from this bast*** of a virus.

    • Treetop 15.1

      Why would someone tempt entering the health system by not getting vaccinated?

      Great comments.

      • Forget now 15.1.1

        The public health system is pretty ramshackle. This from Bloomfield should give vaccination waverers a bit of a boost though (both carrot and stick):

        "They're less likely to pass on the virus and if they are infectious, they are infectious for a shorter period so therefore, especially if they're asymptomatic … they would only require a shorter period at home."

        By contrast, those who are unvaccinated – even if they didn't have symptoms – were more likely to pass on the virus, Bloomfield said.

        "So they would need to remain isolated to avoid passing it on to others, for a longer period."…

        Since the start of the Delta outbreak in Auckland there have been around 170 hospitalisations, of which just 3 people {1.8%} were fully vaccinated, Bloomfield said.

        "[The vaccine] is highly protective."

        He added that around 4 percent of the outbreak's total case numbers were fully vaccinated but the "vast majority" of cases hadn't had one vaccine.

        https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/453576/covid-19-ashley-bloomfield-says-shorter-home-isolation-periods-likely-for-vaccinated

        • Treetop 15.1.1.1

          Hard core anti vaxers only use the science they want to use.

          Hospital admissions due to vaccinated people anti vaxers would argue about it and say the low figures are fake. The figure of vaccinated people not being admitted for Covid is a fact.

          • Forget now 15.1.1.1.1

            Vaccine waverers aren't the hard-core anti-vaxers, though they may spend an unhealthy amount of time in their vicinity. To those who only care about them & theirs, this argument may be persuasive: Since the government has apparently given up on elimination – get vaccinated now, or you will be in compulsory isolation longer when you do get infected.

            Sure, it won't work against those who are determined in their opposition to whatever grand conspiracy they believe in (to some, even a malevolent order is psychologically more palatable than uncaring chaos), but they'll just have to get their immunity the natural way. If they survive.

            • Treetop 15.1.1.1.1.1

              I wanted to distinguish between vaccine wavers, vaccine hesitant and hard core anti vaxers.

              Vaccine wavers, vaccine hesitant, their concerns/reasons can be discussed with a trusted person who can answer their questions to encourage being vaccinated.

              No one wants to be told what to do if they are against it.

    • miravox 15.2

      Thanks for this. Excellent comment

      One of the reasons this lockdown was so much more difficult at least in my circles, than last year's was expectation.

      Same. Even for people not in Auckland, but who have friends and family there, or in the Waikato or Northland. The bit by bit lockdown extensions are like water torture and it leaves people unable to plan and anxious. Most I know in these places are struggling whereas last year they planned for 4 weeks or so and just got on with doing that.

      People I know who are vulnerable are terrified they're going to catch this thing. despite being vaccinated they're living their lives indoors, knowing the vaccine doesn't work quite so well for them.

  16. Forget now 16

    There was no media conference today. In a statement, the Health Ministry said 34 of these cases are linked, 10 are household contacts, and 31 remain unlinked with investigations continuing. 

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/453596/covid-19-update-65-new-community-cases-in-nz-today

    31 unlinked is a lot! 28 yesterday. I have to worry about where those loose chains are flailing about around Tāmaki Makaurau and its vicinity (Stuff says they're all in Auckland). Also:

    Earlier today, the Ministry of Health said a second test for Covid-19 in Te Awamutu's wastewater returned a positive result.

    The sample was taken on Wednesday, after detection of Covid-19 in wastewater on Tuesday.

  17. Ad 17

    Good to see RusselMcVeigh and PWC both requiring vaccinations for all staff, and visitors.

    Where the government is timid to lead, I'm sure key employers will step up.

    Since the unions are 90% only in the public sector and apparently willing to protect the unvaccinated (their silence isn't golden it's just plain yellow), we're due for the private sector to require full 100% compliance.

    • roblogic 17.1

      Law firms aren't exactly moral leaders. I am sure this policy is entirely pragmatic, given the heat around the subject they don't want staff fighting each other (or clients) over anti vax BS

      • Ad 17.1.1

        Looking forward to that same pragmatism from a whole-of-government response to vaccinations.

    • weka 17.2

      all people entering their buildings. Will they continue to have clients remotely?

      • Ad 17.2.1

        That's the general idea. A lot of the corporates are decreasing the size of the headquarters because home work essentially offloads a lot of rental costs. Mine sure is.

        • weka 17.2.1.1

          So a double strategy: send a strong get vaxxed message, and reduce overheads.

          Getting used to working remotely and getting much better at this (new hard tech, new social tech) seems a no brainer at this point in history. Enhance social interactions when they do have them.

  18. observer 18

    Well, f*** this. I go in a day ahead of "Super Saturday" to make it easier for everyone, and I'm told to come back tomorrow, after my test result (if that is even tomorrow). How does that encourage people to get vaccinated?

    As so often, it's the old story – I told the truth (that I was tested yesterday). If I hadn't, I'd have got the jab.

    Reminds me of when I would fly back from UK or Aus and the card asks "have you been on/near a farm in the past month?" or whatever it was. I soon learned to say "no", regardless of whether I had been.

    Bloody box-ticking.

  19. Andre 19

    If the government wants to put anyone back into level 4, with the goal of increasing vaccination rates, it had fkn well better concurrently announce "no jab, no job" and "no jab, no entry" for everything outside one's own private home.

    Those two policies really are the only two things the government could do to sway a large proportion of our remaining vaccine hesitants. Warbling endlessly about how important vaccination is isn't going to achieve squat. Appealing to a hesitant's sense of community is going to achieve jack shit, mostly they haven't got one.

    I don't much care whether you describe universal "no jab, no job" and "no jab, no entry" as a carrot to get out of lockdown, or a stick to beat people into vaccination. What matters is they get vaccinated, and the sooner the better.

    • Nic the NZer 19.1

      When is the next update of the Covid-19 trace app coming out? It will be modified to start showing a little gold star as the icon until its linked to a vaccine passport right?

  20. If elimination is still the strategy, then the only way to achieve it [total 100% reckon] must be level four in all areas with active cases, and this time only lifted after two weeks of zero new infections.

    If that happened, and even though I doubt it will, it could be a great time to show how the caring left can help make life better for them stuck in a limbo lock down, while rigidly enforcing borders and pandemic protocols.

    How about fleets of essential workers delivering free food parcels, books, games.

    Bi weekly raffles for all affected household, held after the lotto draws, with prizes like travel to local tourist centres to be taken after elimination is achieved. Or prizes like free rent a year those in state housing. Or a tax free year for those under 30k, 6 months below 70k and 3 months under 150k.

    Host a chat line zoom type thing on TV where people in the NZ free zone can send messages of support and show we're still a united team of 5 million.

    If we’re forced to spend our way through a sustained L4, then might as well make people feel better whilst doing it and have some moral boosting fun at the same time.

  21. DS 21

    Level 4 can't reach the muppets. Fair enough. What it does do is keep the wider community safe while the plague burns through the muppets. Ditto the external and internal border – so long as we don't do something stupid like opening up, this outbreak will eventually peak and come back down.

    Level 4 is a must, of course. As is cutting off the South Island.

  22. DS 22

    To clarify: the current hotbed of this is now West Auckland, not South Auckland. And almost certainly gang-connected.

  23. georgecom 23

    I'm not as pessimistic as some on this thread obviously. Vax saturday will give us some clue what the next couple of weeks holds. Auckland is 3% – 40,000 people short of 90% first jab. A 3% lift in Auckland rates will probably have a similar % lift for Pasifika & Maori rates. It will be 1% lift for the overall NZ rate. Second jab % are increasing at a pretty steady rate and will quite quickly shrink that gap – currently 21%, within 7 days that will be 14-15%, in a fortnight probably 7-8% or less. We will be at 80% double vaxed and around 88% single dose. Within that phase Pasifika and Maori rates should be 75%+ and 80%+.

    Those rates will not save us from a spike upward in cases but should well stop an avalanche of cases into hospitals and dozens of deaths per day. The next little while won't be easy, won't be pretty, but it shouldn't be what we saw in Europe last year or India this year. As for the future, it seems the Delta variant has quickly overcome the other types such as the Brazil, UK or South African strain. It's pace of spread sees it go through unvaccinated populations quickly. Next time it comes around it will find a significant % of the population will have some natural immunity.

    That won't kill the virus off but will result in diminishing returns and make it less likely the virus will mutate. It might, however the pace of the delta virus ironically gets natural immunity to many more people more quickly and will damped down the virus ability to quickly mutate. Mind, getting there won't be easy and won't be pleasant for the hard hit nations where vaccination rates are low.

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  • Relationship with Malaysia to be elevated to Strategic Partnership
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  • Call for New Zealanders to get on-board with rail safety
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  • Regional approach the focus at ASEAN and East Asia Summit talks
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  • Speech to the Criminal Bar Association
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  • More women on public boards than ever before
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  • Awards support Pacific women
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