The director general of health is ‘increasingly confident’ the Auckland outbreak is contained – but his virtual dashboard isn’t quite at green.
Last week, prompted by a question from The Spinoff, the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said his Covid-19 dashboard was flashing “orange”, as a result of growing cases in the Auckland community linked to the Mount Roskill Evangelical Church.
At the time, Bloomfield said it wouldn’t be a “steady green” until he was confident the outbreak was well circled.
A week on, Bloomfield today said he’s less worried about the continued spread of Covid-19. At the 1pm press briefing, he told reporters his virtual dashboard was an “amber-green” – suggesting his level of concern is trending downwards, rather than merging together into a muddy brown.
“I think we’re increasingly confident we’ve ringfenced that cluster and sub-cluster, and the other sub-cluster,” Bloomfield said.
The director general’s enhanced confidence aligns with the fact today marks two consecutive days with no new Covid-19 community cases. In fact, these are the only days without new cases outside our managed isolation facilities since the virus returned last month.
The back-to-back zero days don’t appear to be an abberation. The number of new community cases have, on the whole, been trending down over the past week.
That being said, “increasingly confident” is not the same as completely confident. The case of the Auckland healthcare worker who attended a gym and some shops after contracting the virus from a quarantined resident at the Jet Park hotel before testing positive for Covid-19 that is stopping Bloomfield from going full green.
“I’m very pleased to see so far we have no indication of further infection from the healthcare worker,” he told reporters today.
There are now 85 close contacts of the worker in self-isolation, all linked to three gym classes at Les Mills Takapuna last week. “There have been 195 casual contacts identified from the gym classes,” Bloomfield said. “91 have been tested and returned a negative result.”
Of the 85 close contacts, five are yet to test negative for Covid-19, while 104 of the close contacts have not even received a test yet.
Earlier today, Ministry of Health figures suggested our contact tracing was struggling to keep up with the latest outbreak. Only 56% of close contacts were in isolation within four days of being exposed to the virus, well below the 80% target.
Considering the transmission cycle of Covid-19 can be up to 14 days, it’s likely to be another week before Bloomfield will admit whether or not he feels totally confident that the elimination strategy has worked in Auckland.
Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the country, Auckland excepted – will move down to alert level one as of Tuesday, September 22, to be confirmed a day earlier when Cabinet meets again. Cabinet will also then review the current restrictions in Auckland, but for the time being the region remains in “level 2.5”.
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