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The Government is bolstering its random Covid-19 targeted testing regime, expanding the initiative to Auckland as it prepares to make a decision on easing lockdown restrictions.

Cabinet will tomorrow make the highly-anticipated call on whether or not New Zealand will come out of level 4 this week.

It comes as the number of global deaths from Covid 19 passes 157,000 with another 550 deaths in a 24-hour period in New York. There have been almost 2.3 million cases of coronavirus worldwide, with more than 700,000 cases in the United States, the highest number of any country.


But on the eve of New Zealand's lockdown decision, data shows the number of new Covid-19 cases remains low in this country.

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But questions have been raised about the Government's surveillance system with insiders saying it is outdated, going as far as describing it as a "dinosaur".

The Government's contact tracing ability will be a key part of Ministers' thinking when Cabinet meets tomorrow.

The Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday there were 13 new cases of Covid-19 across the country.

There were no deaths reported and the ministry confirmed that 867 people have so far recovered – that's up 51 on Friday's figure.

There are a total of 1422 probable and confirmed Covid-19 cases across the country.

To get a better snapshot of New Zealand's position, the Government has increased its random testing regime to include the country's biggest city – Auckland.


Testing began at 8am yesterday at two supermarkets in the region, the ministry revealed.

The aim, officials said, is to collect 150 swabs at both sites.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said Auckland DHB had agreed not to reveal which supermarkets the testing was being done at, other than the fact the chain had a presence in Mangere and Henderson.

The random testing at the sites was for one day only, the spokeswoman confirmed.

The data officials are able to glean from the sites will be critical for the Government's lockdown decision.

The random testing, according to Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay, will help provide an "overall picture" of the extent of community transmission, which remains low across the country.


Auckland is the latest city or region for random Covid-19 testing to take place.

The targeted testing scheme is already under way in Queenstown, Waikato and Canterbury. And so far it is looking optimistic.

All tests processed from the Queenstown supermarket site returned a negative result.

In Waikato, 308 people were tested across Otorohanga, Hamilton, Matamata, Cambridge, and Te Awamutu.

Those tests have all also returned negative results, as did all the tests processed to date from the community testing in Canterbury.

On Friday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson was at pains to point out the Government had a lot more data to look at before Cabinet made its decision on Monday.


"I don't think we should be getting ahead of ourselves," he said when asked about the low number of new cases.

He told media there were a number things the Government needed to be sure of before restrictions were eased.

"One of those is [making sure] that we genuinely are breaking the chain of community transmission."

There is still some work to be done around contact tracing, as well as making sure the health system has all the capacity it needed, Robertson said.

Meanwhile, concerns still remain over ministry's ability to rapidly trace close contacts of Covid-19.

Insiders have told the Herald that the Government's surveillance system is outdated, with one describing it as a "dinosaur".


The ministry was provided a report on the shortcomings in its contact tracing last Saturday, but is yet to release it.

The report, by University of Otago infectious diseases physician Ayesha Verrall, was understood to be damning of the ministry's tracing approach at the time of the audit.

Its delay raises questions as to New Zealand's level of preparedness when it comes to contact tracing in a level 3 environment.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Wednesday he had received Verrall's report and officials were "furiously" responding to its recommendations.

Police have set up checkpoints around the country to stop people who were planning on traveling during the Covid-19 lockdown. Video / Dean Purcell

This comes as the latest police figures show there have been 2078 breaches during lockdown and more than 200 prosecutions.

Of the total, 1605 have been breaches under the Health Act and have resulted in 190 prosecutions, 1381 warnings and 34 youth referrals.


A total of 473 were breaches under the Civil Defence Emergency Act and resulted in 38 prosecutions, 418 warnings and 17 youth referrals. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website