Plans are afoot to open more Covid vaccination clinics across Northland to coincide with the national Super Saturday as the current alert level 3 in the region has been extended for a further three days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday
announced Northland and Waikato will stay in level 3 until 11.59pm this Thursday while Auckland's status will be reviewed on Monday next week but schools in the Super City won't start on October 18.
She said uncertainty around places a person who entered Northland from Auckland went to, coupled with low vaccination numbers, prompted the Cabinet to extend alert level 3 for three more days.
"As you can imagine, this is an extremely frustrating situation the likes of which we have seen very rarely in our Covid response before and, given how extraordinary it is, so far 1.1 per cent of the region have had a test over the last 48 hours.
"Thank you to everyone that has come forward but this needs to be much higher to make sure we have the certainty there aren't undetected cases. This is especially important given in Northland we have lower vaccination rates," the Prime Minister said.
A woman who travelled to Northland with a Covid-positive case was finally tracked down by police in West Auckland on Monday night.
She is asymptomatic and was taken into MIQ under the Health Act.
Northland District Health Board spokeswoman Liz Inch said more vaccination clinics would be advised this week in relation to Super Saturday. There are seven testing clinics across Northland.
Of the 164,526 eligible population in Northland, 66,639 (40.5 per cent) have been fully vaccinated, 37,780 (23 per cent) are partially vaccinated, and nearly 37 per cent or 60,107 are unvaccinated.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said unfortunately Northlanders would have to maintain pressure on this virus given the recent border breaches by two Aucklanders.
"The low vaccination rates in Northland is a massive wake-up call but people are beginning to see the risk from Delta virus is real and are getting vaccinated.
"Northland is in a situation, with limited transmission, it can potentially go down to level 2 but again it will require critical things like vaccination rates to go up and people with symptoms to come forward."
Baker said New Zealand neither has experience nor the infrastructure to prevent people crossing borders or flouting Covid rules, as seen in bigger centres like Auckland.
Economist Brad Olsen said the outlook for a large number of Northland businesses like retailers and those in hospitality looked grim if alert levels 3 and 4 continued past New Year.
"So far, businesses and households are generally optimistic but there remains a critical and growing risk of harder economic times if higher alert levels continue. Given the low vaccination numbers in Northland, the risk of longer and heavier restrictions is greater than in other parts of the country."
Olsen said the key was to get the vaccination wider and faster if Northlanders wanted their freedoms back quicker.
"What we are seeing is, on aggregate, economic activity in Northland is stronger but a lot of businesses are being pushed to the brink, particularly the hospitality sector, because they've been trading for extended periods with lower than usual revenue but with the same costs," he said.
On a second Covid positive person who came to Northland and is still at large, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the person was not travelling around the region at the moment and that police were looking at all options to locate the case.
Ardern said that in Northland, the Government has "pieced together what it can" from CCTV footage and police investigations".
She said the Government knew who the second traveller in Northland was, but could not locate them and the situation was "extraordinary".
"I feel the same frustration that everyone else feels," she said. "They are refusing to co-operate, it is beyond irresponsible, it is dangerous."
"Health and police are really pulling out all the stops," Ardern said.
Ardern said there were other options available to the police, but she would not detail them because they extended "beyond contact tracing now".
Ardern said she would not name her but she has asked police and health to consider doing so.
The easiest option for the person was to come forward, she said, and allowed a test to be undertaken to protect those around them.
"The two most important things Northlanders can do in the meantime is to please get tested and also get vaccinated. We need the confidence provided by testing to reduce restrictions," she said.
An annoyed Kaipara mayor Jason Smith described the two people who crossed the border into Northland as "crooks" who necessitated an extension of level 3.
"It's a very serious situation and the uncertainty right now is unhelpful. We don't know what the level of risk is and is not," he said.
Smith said an extension of level 3 until Thursday was "reasonable" and reiterated earlier calls for people to get vaccinated.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said she had been hopeful that with no positive cases in Northland the region would be able to go down a level after yesterday's announcement but said 48 hours more of level 3 was better than a week.
Locations of interest in Northland are Pepe's Dairy in Onerahi, BP Connect on Maunu Rd, Z in Kensington, Kingswood Manor Motel on Kamo Rd, and the DoC campground at Uretiti.
As of yesterday morning,
110,491 first doses and 77,955 second doses of the Covid vaccination had been given in Northland.
On Sunday last week, 459 first and 630 doses were administered.
The same day, 738 Covid tests were done across the region.