Three new Covid cases just outside the Auckland boundaries prompt a call for Auckland’s Level 4 lockdown to be extended and to include the Waikato

A testing centre is being set up at a marae in the Waikato settlement of Kaiaua today after three community cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the region.

They are household members of a man with the virus who is in remand at Mt Eden prison in Auckland.

The Ministry of Health said two of the cases went to Mangatangi School and one had symptoms while there.

The National Māori Pandemic Group says the new cases mean Cabinet must keep Auckland at Level 4 and include Waikato, and wants the upper North Island in Level 3 as a precaution.

Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki says drive-in swabbing will be done at Wharekawa Marae in Whakatīwai.

The Government is due to announce any possible alert level changes this afternoon and it is unclear clear how the development in Waikato will affect its decision.

Mangatangi is just south of Kaiaua/Whakatīwai, all of which are in north Waikato, and run along the border with Auckland.

Dr Sue Crengle, co-leader ofTe Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, the Māori pandemic group, said serious restrictions are needed until the extent of the outbreak in the Waikato area is known.

“We know that Māori communities are more at risk from acquiring Covid and hospitalisations and we think deaths as well if they do get sick with Covid, and at the moment we don’t know the extent of the outbreak in the Waikato – that will only become apparent in the next few days, couple of weeks – and there are many Māori communities in the upper North Island and we want to make sure they are protected as much as possible.”

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says there’s preliminary evidence to suggest the new cases in the Waikato are linked to one of the Auckland clusters.

He says there’s no indication the virus emerged from the area and it’s more likely it was taken there.

The discovery of the cases won’t necessarily tip the balance away from dropping Auckland’s alert level, Robertson says, but the situation is rapidly evolving and Cabinet will need to take the latest advice when it meets this afternoon.

An epidemiologist says the discovery of the three new community cases outside of Auckland does change what the Government will need to consider when it meets today.

Professor Michael Baker told First Up that having community transmission in an alert Level Two zone where there were fewer controls was very concerning.

“I’m sure there will need to be some consideration about whether to somehow extend the level three or level four boundary to include this part of Waikato I mean that would be an option.”

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