New Zealand will remain at a Covid-19 red light

The country will remain at a Covid-19 red light, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.

Ardern made the announcement during today’s post-Cabinet press conference at around 4 p.m.

She said the rolling average of cases had fallen by 36% in the two weeks since the government refined the traffic light system.

There had been early data showing an increase since mid-March in the number of people visiting retail and leisure venues in Auckland, as well as more people returning to their workplaces, she said .

While cases declined in Auckland, Wellington and Tairāwhiti, other areas like Canterbury, Northland and Waikato did not see the same drop. Hospitalizations in some DHBs are not expected to peak until mid-April.

“So for now New Zealand will stay in the red,” Ardern said.

“I know there’s a rush to go orange, but we’re still frankly in the middle of an outbreak and there’s still pressure in our hospital network.”

Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield said health officials would not look at a specific number of hospitalizations when advising to move to the orange setting, but would instead consider capacity and pressure levels , which also includes hospital staff.

The next review of traffic light settings will take place on Thursday, April 14.

Jacinda Ardern.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Ardern said today’s decision was based on health advice and the government did not want to move too fast and lose progress.

“It’s less about the number of cases and more about hospitalizations.”

Asked why Auckland couldn’t go orange as cases dwindled, Ardern said while there was a drop in hospitalizations ‘it’s on a high basis, the numbers are still relatively high , the pressure on our system is still there, we want to make sure that we are in the best possible position and that we do not lose the gains that we have worked so hard for”.

“We’ve always said it’s possible to move regions to different levels at different times… but as we said, Auckland has made significant progress but we still have a relatively high hospitalization rate.”

“We have to take care of our health personnel.”

The country needed to help the healthcare system recover and be ready for the expected winter surge, Ardern said, asking that people be given a boost.

“Unvaccinated and unvaccinated people represent a disproportionate number of people in our hospitals. Over 9900 people are due to receive their booster today, please get your booster as soon as possible.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Checkpoint there were a series of considerations that Cabinet should take into account in its April 14 review.

“We obviously look at general trends… the number of new hospital admissions as well as those who are hospitalized – but also demographics,” he said.

“We’re looking at what’s called case weighting because not all hospitalizations are equal, some go in and out of hospital much faster than others.

“If you think about it just from an economic point of view, the last thing I think people want to see is a sudden increase in cases that puts more people at home, more people having to self-isolate. , because ultimately from a business point of view it’s bad for business it also means less staff and fewer customers.”

Bloomfield said the weight of advice from paediatricians and other child health experts and epidemiologists suggested they believed New Zealand had done a good job of protecting children, including being among the first to introduce Covid-19 vaccines for children.

Many DHBs had more than 90% of Maori double-vaccinated, and booster vaccination rates for Maori, Pacifica and others were very similar in the more vulnerable age groups of 65 and over, he said. .

The Covid-19 vaccine program – including its infrastructure, capacity and capabilities – has been transferred to help people catch up on MMR and other vaccines, Bloomfield said.

He had been advised on a fourth dose of Pfizer and that would go to ministers very soon, he said.

“The evidence is still emerging on this…what I would say is that it’s clearly most important for these high-risk groups.”

Ardern said New Zealand’s Covid-19 record was still among the best in the OECD.

“No country has come out unaffected by Covid, but in New Zealand the impact on us has been less than most countries we compare ourselves to.”

Meanwhile, Ardern said there is “absolutely” work going on to prepare for new variants.

Aotearoa had a range of tools that were kept ‘behind the scenes’ should we need them, such as warrants, passes and the alert level system.

Hipkins said the decision to keep New Zealand red was not informed by the emergence of the new Covid XE variant, which is likely to cross the border when it opens.

“We are monitoring any emergence of new variants internationally very closely. So yes, it has not impacted this particular decision as the information is still very new on new variants, but we are monitoring that from very close.”

The National Party wants the traffic light system to be scrapped altogether.

The prime minister said morning report vaccination mandates and the traffic light system had made a big difference, but said the first peak of Omicron had passed in parts of the country.

She warned that this was only the first wave of Omicron and that there would be more waves and new variants to come.

Ardern said precautions known to be effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19, such as the use of masks and collection restrictions, would continue to be necessary, even if it was decided that some parts of the country could change to orange setting.

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