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Living with Covid-19 is the new normal and the Government's "best in show" mentality of dealing with the virus isn't the right approach, a health expert says.
Auckland University professor Des Gorman said living with Covid was going to be the new normal and the health system was not going to go berserk.
"There's almost 90 per cent in Auckland who have had our first vaccination - we are not going to get those rampant numbers," he told the AM show.
Gorman said the health system always coped. There would be a price that would be paid such as some people missing out on medical care, but it would cope, he told the AM show.
He said there should be a clear indication of the privileges vaccination brings and that students were vaccinated should go back to school as soon as they could, especially secondary school students.
Gorman said it really worried him when he heard the government saying it was going to be world-leading again and said the best in show mentality led you down an awful place.
What was needed was a plan which led Auckland back to normal, he said.
Case numbers 'sobering'
Covid Minister Chris Hipkins told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB that he didn't have any new case numbers today, said it was too early to tell what they would be like, but said they were getting "closer to 100".
Asked about yesterday's cases hitting 94, Hipkins said it wasn't a surprise and they knew case numbers would continue to rise.
"We knew that case numbers were going to go up and we're at that point in this particular outbreak where we're likely to see big case numbers. Case numbers have not grown as exponentially as countries who have found themselves in a Delta outbreak."
However, when pressed by Hosking about Auckland going to level 4, Hipkins ruled it out - at this stage.
"No, at this point the real question are whether the cases are still contained in Auckland and the other metrics including percentage of hospitalisation. ..vaccination is helping. we are seeing fewer people in hospital even though the cases are growing they're growing slower than they otherwise would."
A trajectory didn't follow a straight line so there could be some dips, bumps and peaks along the way.
Asked whether the Government would consider level 4 if Auckland did hit more than 100 cases, Hipkins again said it wasn't something they were considering "and I wouldn't put a threshold like 100 on level 4".
As for the slowing vaccination rate, Hipkins said they were now getting down to the harder reach group of first vaccinators.
"It is those first doses though that we have to get more movement on.
They were seeing good second dose progress and that made an "enormous" difference in hospitalisations.
Hipkins told TVNZ's Breakfast said of yesterday's jump in community cases: "Yes, I think it is sobering...but it could have been even higher."
He said our attention needs to now turn away from case numbers and instead turn towards the nature of those positive Covid cases.
Despite the jump in community cases, Hipkins said people who were doing the right thing and following the current lockdown rules were making a difference.
"You are helping to keep those case numbers lower. You are helping to give people time to get vaccinated - that is important.
"We still need to reach the unvaccinated before the Covid-19 virus does. They are the people most at risk, so we want to get our vaccination rates up."
He said the Prime Minister and Government's road map announcement on Friday would provide more certainty to people who feel that this has been a "long, slow journey".
Hipkins acknowledged that the near future would look very different and that it was likely we would never get back down to zero Covid cases in the community.
Speaking about some prominent community leaders deliberately telling people not to get vaccinated - particularly in Māori and Pasifika communities - Hipkins said it was important for people in those communities to know that such messages were based on "completely inaccurate and false information".
He said officials were already providing the resources needed to get people vaccinated and getting the vaccines out. But it was now up to those communities to address the situation.
"A lot of that now sits in the hands of the community."
As for his school's announcement today, Hipkins said he would give more clarity to secondary school students.
However, primary students would have to wait a bit longer.
"I will give some specifics for a pathway forward for schools ... secondary schools will get certainty today.
"We will set out some early thinking on what happens for the school system."
NZQA was also working through issues with Cambridge exams.
Primary school students were "the highest concentration of the unvaccinated in the country" which was why the Government was being "being very careful there".
"I wouldn't say that primary schools won't reopen but there are likely quite a few additional public health measures in place if we are to reopen."
Hosking put to Hipkins that if they left it too long it would be a waste of time going, however Hipkins said teachers were still able to teach and he felt they would enjoy any class time they could get.
"We haven't made a decision on that at this point".
Changes in managed isolation would be announced by the Prime Minister on Friday. He said sorting out how it worked was difficult as not everyone flew into Auckland and wanted to stay in Auckland.
"One of the challenges of course is we have Covid 19 in Auckland and not around the rest of the country.
"If everyone coming into the country was coming into Auckland it would be an easier equation than people spread around the country.
"There will certainly be changes coming there. it will be stepped changes, a series of changes, and expect to announce that in the next week or so."
Asked exactly when, Hipkins confirmed Friday.
'Covid-19 is on the doorstep' - Minister's stark warning
Young Māori are being warned that Delta is knocking on their front doors as daily case numbers hit a new high, increasing the chances of the virus leaking out of Auckland.
The Government is trying to improve relationships between some DHBs and Māori health providers, and on Friday it will reveal extra efforts to vaccinate young Māori alongside its vaccination targets for the new traffic light framework.
The Friday announcement will also outline when Aucklanders might be able to leave the city.
"Aucklanders will need to be able to move around," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said when asked if Aucklanders could make Christmas plans.
Daily case numbers hit 94 yesterday, the highest since the start of the pandemic, and with an R value of between 1.2 and 1.3, they are expected to continue to grow.
Yesterday the first case appeared on Waiheke Island, and Ardern warned that there was a high rate of cases proportional to testing numbers in the North Shore.
The communities most at risk are those that are unvaccinated, and young Māori and Pasifika are the most unvaccinated groups in the country.
"To the Māori people, Covid-19 is on the doorstep of your houses," Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare warned.
And given the increasing likelihood of Delta leaking out of the City of Sails, Ardern said it wasn't just about the unvaccinated in Auckland.
"There are young people in other parts of Aotearoa that we really need to focus in on who don't think it is real, or that it affects them yet," she said.
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Māori make up an increasingly larger proportion of active cases, including 45.7 per cent in the past fortnight, and most of the new cases are under the age of 40.
National leader Judith Collins told The AM Show today that she would end lockdown by December 1 or earlier if they could get to the 85 to 90 per cent double vaccination rate.
Collins said the lockdown had already come as a huge cost to New Zealand and she had been really shocked to learn 85,000 medical procedures and operations had been cancelled in the first six weeks of lockdown.
This included people getting assessments or treatments for cancer or heart disease.
She said the Government needed to get on and get the ICU beds up and running - no excuse.
"We cannot simply have people paying an enormous cost because the Government stuffed up the vaccination rollout. Just get on with it, get on with it."
Immunologist Dianne Sika-Paotonu said the Government's targets on Friday needed to be 90 to 95 per cent for Māori and Pacific peoples, given "pre-existing health disparities and inequities".
But that level of coverage is potentially months away.
Vaccination rates for Māori (45 per cent for two doses, 66.5 per cent for one) are well below the national average (66.6 per cent and 85 per cent).
Those rates drop even further for Māori aged 12 to 34 (29.7 per cent for two doses, 55.5 per cent for one dose), though in Auckland they are higher (36.8 per cent for two doses, 63.8 per cent for one dose).
The national rates for that age group are 50.6 per cent for two doses, and 78.3 per cent for one dose.
Coverage for young Māori is lowest in the Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ruapehu and Ōpōtiki districts, and highest in Wellington City, Selwyn District, Dunedin and Queenstown Lakes District.
The Government announced $36 million in September to support Māori health providers, but Henare said poor relationships between some DHBs and providers had "proven problematic".
"In Taranaki, for example, we heard from Māori health providers and iwi that they were dissatisfied with the job that the DHB was doing. We met with the DHB and can now confirm that 16 hapū and the DHB are working together."
Other areas with lagging coverage among Māori that Henare visited recently, or wanted to visit, including the West Coast, Christchurch, the Lakes District, Tairāwhiti, Tauranga, Palmerston North, and Te Tai Tokerau.
Vaccination efforts had also been dragged down by a lack of strong leadership, he said, and local GPs who were more worried about their own patients than the wider community.
He wouldn't say if Māori had been let down by DHBs, and Ardern said many of them had delivered vaccines to Māori very well.
"In some areas, we do need to be doing better, absolutely. But those are conversations that didn't just start in October," Ardern said.
Henare said he didn't think it was a mistake not to prioritise young Māori, given that the median age for Māori is 26 and for all ethnic groups it is 37.
Ardern added that the younger age profile for Māori was meant to be bridged in part by the ability of whānau to be vaccinated at the same time.
The Government had limited supply of the vaccine until July, she said, which had led to the decision to prioritise border and healthcare workers, as well as the 65s and over and those with underlying health conditions.
Cabinet rejected expert health advice to prioritise Māori and Pasifika aged 50 to 64.
The National Party is planning to release its own vaccination target today for Aucklanders and others to be able to move around the country.
Party leader Judith Collins said it won't include a Māori target.
The Government also announced a third dose for the immunocompromised, with more details to be released next week.