Nine new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported today, all from the Auckland cluster.

Seven of them have a confirmed link to the cluster, while two are believed to be linked to the cluster but are still being investigated.

Meanwhile 86 people linked to the cluster, including 36 positive cases, have been moved into a quarantine facility.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said people were being encouraged to move into a quarantine facility where that was helpful, such as families where some had tested positive while others had not.

Advertisement

There are five people receiving hospital-level care. Two are in Auckland City Hospital, and three are in Middlemore.

He said he understood the five people in hospital were stable.

READ MORE:
Covid 19 coronavirus: The test that confirms biggest virus fear
Covid 19 coronavirus: Positive case visited Pak'nSave Royal Oak in Auckland last weekend
Covid-19 coronavirus: White Cross New Lynn patient tests positive
Covid 19 coronavirus update: Chris Hipkins, Ashley Bloomfield reveal 13 new cases - and issue a warning about social media

The total number of active cases is 78. Of those, 58 are in the community cluster and 20 are overseas arrivals that have been contained in quarantine or managed isolation since they flew in.

There were 26,014 tests processed yesterday. Almost 100,000 tests were completed in the last week.

Bloomfield said the low number of positive cases with the high number of tests was "reassuring", and a sign that the current outbreak was caught before it could have exploded.

He said the high demands for testing had caused some delays in the testing processing times, but people who tested positive were notified immediately.

No failure to test border-facing workers - Bloomfield

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave assurances that border-facing frontline staff were being tested regularly.

Advertisement

"If you work in our primary quarantine (the Jet Park), you are tested weekly. If you work outside of that, it's a slightly longer rotation but still frequent," she said on Thursday.

But that had not been happening, and Health Minister Chris Hipkins has already accepted responsibility for the failure.

Asked about her comments last week and who had misled her, Ardern said she would have to check who had compiled the information.

But she said it was unfair to assume Bloomfield had misled her.

"When we ask as a Cabinet for something to happen, we expect it to happen. That has not met our expectations," Ardern said.

But Bloomfield said no one had been misled and he had communicated frequently with ministers about testing border-facing workers.

Advertisement

"I was checking every single day. There was clearly a dissonance between what the Prime Minister thought was happening and what was happening on the ground."

The Government's testing strategy - from June 23 - was for regular testing of asymptomatic border-facing workers, but Bloomfield said: "We couldn't just flick a switch and do that overnight."

He said there was no tension between him and the operational arm of the ministry, and there should be a review to make what was happening clearer, and to make "information flows clearer in both directions".

He didn't know when testing of workers at the Jet Park had started, but it was in the process of being moved to weekly testing.

"We were under alert level 1 and we were going through a process of scaling up testing availability."

Cluster's origin still unknown

Asked if the current cluster had come from a breach at the quarantine facility, he said: "We simply don't know."

Advertisement

There was still no link to any of the existing strains of Covid-19 from overseas travelers, though not all of those positive cases were successfully sequenced.

He added that the environmental samples from surfaces at the Mt Wellington Americold store - which are viewed as unlikely to have been infectious - had been sent to Wellington for processing by the end of the week.

He added that supermarket shoppers did not need to be concerned as there is no evidence that people can catch Covid-19 from frozen food packaging.

Subscribe to Premium

One of the positive cases was a port worker, but that person had been identified through the contact-tracing process and they hadn't been in contact with anyone at the port.

There was now a testing team in place in place at the Auckland port, a new team was being set up at Tauranga Port.

Testing of all port workers was initially meant to have been completed by tonight, but that has been extended to the end of the week due to the sheer number of the 12,000 port workers.

Advertisement

"No one is going to be penalised if no one has had their test by later tonight," Bloomfield said.

Ports chief executives' group spokesman Charles Finny said as recently as two weeks ago the maritime sector had been urging health authorities to test at ports, without success.

But Bloomfield rejected the suggestion that the Ministry of Health had been deaf to his pleas.

"I have a different view."

He said there was no plan at this stage to prevent international aircrew from flying home domestically to self-isolate after coming back to New Zealand.

Programmes to address anxiety in Māori and Pasifika communities were being addressed, Bloomfield said, but he didn't have any details.

Advertisement

"I can also say the 1737 mental health line has people who speak a range of languages."

Casual contacts

He said the risk was very low for people identified as casual contacts, but he identified other locations that positive cases had been, including:

• The Botany Mall from 1pm to 2pm on August 11;

• BBM madhouse fitness class at Edmonton Primary School in Te Atatu on School Rd, from 515am to 6am on August 10;

• The Eden Junior Rugby Club in Gribblehirst Park, Sandringham Road, Kingsland from 5.30pm-6.30pm on August 11;

• And a guinea pig show at the Auckland Cavy Club on Hall Rd on August 8 from 10am to 2pm.

Advertisement

On elimination

Bloomfield said the elimination approach "has served us very well, and most commentators, not just her but many abroad, support us maintaining that".

On extending alert level 2, Bloomfield said the current settings would give Kiwis "pause for thought" about what level 1 should look like, including whether there should be more physical distancing and the possible use of masks in some settings.

"All New Zealanders would prefer that we stayed in alert level 1, and perhaps modify (those settings as they currently are)."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrongly said there was regular testing of border workers last week, but today said it was unfair to assume Ashley Bloomfield misled her. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrongly said there was regular testing of border workers last week, but today said it was unfair to assume Ashley Bloomfield misled her. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Not the first border blunder

In June, the Ministry of Health revealed 54 people had left a facility on compassionate grounds without first returning a negative Covid-19 test - which was meant to be a prerequisite.

Two of them – sisters who had returned from the UK – drove from Auckland to Wellington, where they subsequently tested positive.

The Government responded by temporarily suspending compassionate leave and bringing in the Defence Force to oversee the how the facilities are run.

Advertisement

The ministry also revealed that the day three and day 12 testing of people staying in managed isolation or quarantine facilities wasn't taking place, despite Bloomfield having already announced it as government policy. Of the 2159 people who left MIQ facilities between June 9 and 16, only 800 of them had been tested.

Bloomfield came under enormous pressure over the blunders, for which he accepted responsibility, as the ministry scrambled to contact them and test them. None of them subsequently tested positive other than the two sisters, but not all could be contacted and some refused to be tested.