New Zealand Covid update: 49 new cases recorded in ‘encouraging’ downward trend

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New Zealand has reported 49 new cases of Covid-19 in the community – continuing an overall downward trend in cases.

That downward slope is an early but promising indication that the country’s strict lockdown measures are working – not only arresting an exponential growth in cases, but also gradually pushing case numbers down and toward elimination.

The director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said that the “latest lower number is encouraging and does show our level 4 measures are working – even against the Delta variant.”

Related: Even as New Zealand battles Covid, trust in government bucks global trend

New Zealand is still strongly committed to eliminating Covid-19 in-country, and Bloomfield’s comments contrasted with Australian leaders who have dismissed elimination as unrealistic. New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday that it was “impossible to eliminate the Delta strain”.a group of people on a sidewalk in front of a brick building: New Zealand has reported 49 new Covid cases with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield saying the numbers were an ‘encouraging’ sign that lockdown is working.© Photograph: Dave Lintott/Rex/Shutterstock New Zealand has reported 49 new Covid cases with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield saying the numbers were an ‘encouraging’ sign that lockdown is working.

“That’s just how the virus works. No amount of government intervention or lockdown is going to get you to zero cases,” Berejiklian said last week.

“Any state and territory that thinks that somehow they can protect themselves from Covid with the Delta strain forever, that’s just absurd,” prime minister Scott Morrison said last week. “New Zealand can’t do that.”

Asked about Australian leaders’ comments, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said “Delta is different. No one’s denying this.”

“What we’ve always said is elimination is the best strategy for us while we’re vaccinating people.”

“So yes, I see different leaders in Australia taking different positions, but I actually think you’d see generally that their view would be keeping those cases down while you vaccinate has to be the goal. It’s certainly ours.”

The latest outbreak hit a peak of about 84 new cases a day over the weekend, before dropping to 53 cases on Monday and 49 on Tuesday, before jumping slightly on Wednesday.

Ardern said that “our case numbers are moving around a little bit at this stage – that’s not unusual, they did this last time”.

“The important thing is we are starting to see some positive trends in the numbers … the rolling day average of cases is declining … we are seeing fewer cases that are infectious in the community,” Ardern said.

To eradicate the virus in-country, the country must keep the “replication number” – the average number of new people each case infects – under one. Bloomfield said that the ministry’s modelling now showed with 95% certainty that that number was below one.

New Zealand’s current outbreak has reached a total of 736 cases, 725 of which are active. Forty-two people are in hospital, with six in intensive care and three on ventilators. Bloomfield said the youngest person in intensive care was 18 years old.

The vast majority of cases are in Auckland, with 16 in Wellington. Bloomfield called on more Aucklanders to get tested, as the government tries to detect any new chains of transmission.

Related: ‘No second chances’: Can New Zealand beat Delta?

“We need to have higher levels of testing across Tamaki Mākaurau [Auckland], to give us confidence that we have the outbreak under control. If you have symptoms, any symptoms at all, or have been at the location of interest or are a contact, and should be tested, please do so. This is absolutely essential for our understanding of whether the outbreak is under control,” he said.

Ardern said she was “really heartened” by new polling that indicated 85% of New Zealanders supported the elimination strategy. “This is a strategy that has worked because New Zealand supported it.”

The government also announced a boost in funding to Whānau Ora, the country’s central indigenous health initiative, with about $26m of funding to go to community providers as the lockdown unfolds.

“Delta has created new challenges for access to food and essential services and also requires more intensive responses to maintain whānau wellbeing. As a result it is important that additional funding is provided where it is most needed,” Whānau Ora minister Peeni Henare said.



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