The Government has delivered good news for the country, with a move to Level 2 this week – but a warning that Delta has ‘changed the game’ when it comes to restrictions
All of New Zealand outside of Auckland will move to Alert Level 2 from Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced, while continuing to caution the country is “not out of the woods” with its latest Covid-19 outbreak.
Speaking on Monday afternoon after a Cabinet meeting to assess the alert level settings, Ardern said there would be more stringent rules at Level 2 than on previous occasions when it came into effect at 11.59pm on Tuesday night.
“As I’ve said many times, Delta has changed the game, so in order to beat it we’ve had to adapt our game plan.”
In addition to previously announced legal requirements for mask wearing and Covid Tracer app scanning, there would be a 50-person limit for indoor settings, hospitality providers and event venues and a 100-person limit for outdoor venues.
As the Delta variant was more transmissible than previous iterations, spacing between people was not in itself sufficient to address the risk.
Indoor public facilities like gyms and museums would now be required to have a two-metre distance between people as was the case for supermarkets, acting as a proxy to reduce maximum capacity.
Schools would be given 48 hours to prepare to reopen on Thursday under Level 2 conditions, Ardern said. Cabinet is due to review Auckland’s own alert level status next week.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Health revealed there had been – for the third day in a row – 20 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, all in Auckland.
Speaking alongside Ardern, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there had been just 4750 Covid-19 tests taken during the same period, with a little over 2000 of those in Auckland – the lowest daily number in the current outbreak.
While the declining numbers in part represented a drop in the number of people with symptoms as well as dwindling locations of interest, Bloomfield said “testing remains central to us being confident that the outbreak is under control”.
“Getting tested if you are symptomatic is still the most important thing – everything else is supplementary over the next week.
“Our goals are to improve our confidence that there is no undetected community transmission in Auckland, and to protect the rest of the country from any possible leakage of the virus out of the Auckland region.”
The Ministry of Health would be working closely with employers who employed essential workers to ensure they were supporting them to stay at home when they were unwell, and there would be more regular surveillance testing for healthcare workers.
In addition, essential workers who had to cross the Auckland boundary for work would be required to undergo testing once a week, although as it was surveillance testing they would not be required to self-isolate while awaiting the test result unless they had symptoms.
Spot checks would take place to ensure that testing was taking place, although officials were still working through the logistics of how workers could provide proof.