There is one new case of Covid-19 today as the Government says testing numbers have dropped off in part because people have become complacent and are declining to be tested.

Now director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is sending a clear message that everyone with symptoms showing up to a GP should be tested.

That had not been the case after the criteria for testing was changed at the end of June, which accompanied a massive drop in testing rates.

Bloomfield announced there was one new case of Covid-19 today.

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The new case is a woman in her 30s who travelled from London.

She tested positive on her third day in a managed isolation facility, and has now been moved to the Jet Park Hotel in Auckland, where other Covid-19 positive people had been quarantined.

There are now 27 active cases and no-one in hospital. Just over 1000 tests were processed yesterday.

It has now been 81 days since the last case of community transmission.

Why testing had dropped off

High rates of testing are critical to ensuring confidence that there was no community transmission.

When Chris Hipkins was first appointed Health Minister at the start of the month, he said the public health advice was for 4000 tests a day to underpin confidence in no community transmission.

But there have been fewer than 4000 tests a day, every day, this month. On Sunday, there were only eight tests in the community.

Bloomfield said today there were three reasons why testing rates had dropped: the rates of flu were 20 per cent lower than normal because of the lockdown, and fewer people were presenting with symptoms; school holidays and weekends tended to see lower test numbers; people were declining tests.

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He said people were declining tests because they were confident there was no community transmission.

"They then think 'I don't necessarily need a swab'."

The nasal swab can also be unpleasant, so Bloomfield said that GPs could use the throat swab.

"We're not doing the testing for nothing," Bloomfield said.

"It is an absolutely fundamental part of our strategy. We don't want to be like the situation in Melbourne."

In Victoria, a few cases suddenly surged to hundreds a day.

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GP practices will now be surveyed about barriers to testing, but they will also be told that swabs should be offered to all people with symptoms.

Bloomfield said everyone offered a swab needed to accept that offer.

He didn't know how widespread the problem was about people refusing tests, but the surveys to GPs could shed some light on that.

Bloomfield also said testing needed to be accessible to the population, even during weekends, and that GPs should be assured that their costs for testing are covered and the tests were free.

"We have a programme well underway to test people working in quarantine and managed isolation facilities, including other staff seconded in."

That would provide additional insurance that any Covid-19 would be detected at the border.

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He said 405 people working at the border or at quarantine and managed isolation facilities were tested between July 8 and July 19.

None of them have tested positive.

Hipkins said the changing of testing criteria for testing "probably didn't help" with testing rates, but there were other factors including the school holidays.

Bloomfield said the Oxford University work publish today on a potential vaccine was "hugely encouraging".

"The key thing in this effort is the knowledge that has been gained has been published early so that can inform others."

There were no current plans to procure doses of that particular potential vaccine, as the UK has done, but Bloomfield said work was continuing around "a whole range of vaccines" because positive early results didn't necessarily mean that it would be the first choice at the end of the process.

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On a lighter note, Bloomfield said jokingly that he had been "set up" for the upcoming parliamentary rugby game because he was meant to be on the wing but is now playing as a flanker.

Asked if he was concerned anyone would land a big hit on Bloomfield, Hipkins said the director general will be able to "look after himself".

Govt puts $302m more into health services

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said that the Covid pandemic had hit global supply chains and made medicines more expensive.

"With the virus now spreading faster than ever, it's clear that disruption to supply chains will continue and more investment is needed," Hipkins said.

The Government is allocating $74 million to Pharmac for this year and $76 million in 2021/22 so it can continue to afford the medicines that New Zealanders need.


The money is coming out of the $50 billion Covid Response and Recovery Fund.

Further health funding has also been approved to support contact-tracing, the roll-out of a future vaccine, and higher demand for telehealth services.

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In total the $302.6m is spread across:

• $150 million (over two years) for Pharmac

• $30 million in the National Close Contact Service, which supports contact-tracing, information technology and development of the Tracer app

• $23 million for a National Immunisation Solution to support the rollout of a vaccine, whenever it is ready

• $35 million for more ventilators and respiratory equipment

• $50 million for PPE supplies

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• $14.6 million for telehealth services

"We can't afford to wait for a vaccine to be available," Hipkins said.


"We need to start work now to replace the current National Immunisation Register, which simply could not cope with the scale and complexity of a mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

"All these investments are designed to further build our ability to respond to the global pandemic now and into the future."

Yesterday's cases

Yesterday there was one new case - a man in his 40s who travelled from Mexico.

All current active cases are contained in quarantine or managed isolation facilities, and yesterday there had been 80 days since the last community transmission case.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that the level of testing was not good enough, a sentiment Hipkins expressed two weeks ago, when he also set out the expectation for testing levels to increase within days.

The drop in testing followed the Ministry of Health changing the case definition of Covid-19 at the end of June.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced yesterday that the Government was setting aside $14 billion of its Covid recovery fund in case the country faces a future Covid calamity.

The $50b recovery fund, labelled an election fund by the Opposition, was the centrepiece of the 2020 Budget and the basis for ballooning future Government debt.

A large proportion of it - $20.2b - was unspent, and Robertson said today that only a further $3.2b will be allocated between now and the September 19 election.

That leaves $14b in the Covid Response and Recovery Fund, which can be used for Covid-related costs in the future and may not be spent if it's not needed.

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