Thursday, December 2

Covid outbreak in New Zealand at a critical juncture as cases appear to stabilize | New Zealand

An apparent plateau in community Covid-19 cases could indicate that New Zealand’s outbreak is teetering on the verge of peak cases, experts say, as the government prepares to make an announcement on the Auckland and Northland lockdown and essential workplaces.

A total of 511 New Zealanders have so far been infected by the highly infectious Delta variant outbreak, first identified in the community on August 17. The number of people needing treatment at the hospital increased overnight Sunday from 25 to 34.

The country was put into a level 4 lockdown, the highest scenario, after the first case emerged. Starting at midnight on Tuesday, the regions south of Auckland will drop one notch, but Auckland, where it has been most of the cases, and Northland will have to wait until Monday afternoon to find out if their lockdown will be extended.

The highest day for cases in the current outbreak was Sunday, with 83 reported. There were 82 new cases on Saturday.

Talking to RNZ On Monday morning, Covid-19 modeler Michael Plank said that it appears that the case numbers are beginning to stabilize and that the numbers were roughly consistent with the modeling projections.

“The numbers are bouncing day by day and I want to say that it certainly seems like it is taking a little longer to control this outbreak than we have seen with previous outbreaks,” he said.

“That is consistent with what we know about the Delta variant that tends to infect everyone in a household. Therefore, we expect to see this type of period with high transmission in households.

“But next week is really the defining week in terms of seeing if the numbers start to go down.”

Plank said there is still a big question about how long the tail of the outbreak will last.

“If the lockdown proves to be really effective in stopping bubble-to-bubble transmission, we may be able to reduce the number of cases to about 10 a day by the end of September, and you know, if we can get to that level, we will be in a very good shape. position to remove the sprout. “

On Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were a small number of workplaces operating below level 4 that had experienced intra-staff transmission – four to date.

“If we need to tighten our restrictions further, we will,” Ardern said.

“This may not be a problem with the rules, say, in the factory, but what is happening perhaps before and after shifts or even during breaks? We are looking at this in more detail. “

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said that workplace transmission was a concern, because even though the sites are not customer-facing, a spread of the infection among staff could lead to satellite outbreaks.

When the government talks about tightening restrictions, it is likely talking about preventing certain workplaces from operating or adding processes to stop transmission within those workplaces, Wiles said.

“The definition of ‘essential’ was very strict at level 4 last time and there seems to have been a bit of expansion, so we have more openings,” he said.

Wiles offered the example of someone ordering boutique chocolate for delivery.

“Yes, technically chocolate is a food, but is it really essential? We have to remember that things have changed with Delta. We can go a few weeks without chocolate, as difficult as it is. “

For Auckland and Northland to lower levels, there would have to be a decrease in cases and a guarantee that the virus is not spreading in workplaces, Wiles said.

Moving the rest of the country, south of Auckland, just one level to level 3 since Wednesday was prudent, due to the risk of essential workers carrying the virus between regions, Wiles said.

“If the South Island goes down in level, then we have to make sure that the sprouts are not planted there; then they will break out faster because there is more movement and less restrictions.”

If the country eased restrictions too soon, future closures could end up being longer, Wiles warned.

“We have a system that was set up when [the pandemic] It started and worked really well in the beginning and now we are seeing how well it works against the virus that has evolved. Just because this is going to be more difficult, there is no reason to throw in the towel and say ‘we give up’ because the alternative is too terrible to think about. “

He added that while some experts, opposition politicians and business leaders criticized the closure restrictions, the general public agreed with the strategy.

Ardern will update the nation on blocking decisions for Auckland and Northland on Monday afternoon.

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