Kia ora, everyone.
Good news to begin with today: as of midnight last night, 2,293,301 doses of the Pfizer
COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in New Zealand, an increase of more than 272,270
doses on this time last week.
Within that, nearly 850,000 New Zealanders have now received two doses of the vaccine,
meaning they are fully vaccinated.
Just yesterday, we administered more than 46,600 doses nationally, our biggest daily
total to date, and, overall, DHBs continue to track around 2 percent ahead of their plans.
We began group 3 in March.
In the last seven days, we delivered 120,418 group 3 vaccinations, which is more than three-quarters
more than we delivered in the same period a month ago.
So were seeing our vaccination rates increasing very quicklythats encouraging, but its
As I said last week, we are seeing escalating COVID-19 numbers in countries all over the
Far from coming to an end, this pandemic continues to escalate at this point.
Increasingly, the main variant that were dealing with around the world is the Delta
This variant is more transmissible, its causing more hospitalisations, it is causing
more people to die, and its making younger people sick.
Were seeing it wreak havoc, and thats why the Governments been doing a lot of
work to plan for the possibility that COVID-19 could once again make its way into the New
Part of that work has been asking Sir David Skegg and the Strategic COVID-19 Public Health
Advisory Group to look at how New Zealand might reconnect with the world while maintaining
our elimination strategy and keeping New Zealanders safe.
We welcome that report and its suggestions.
I know many of you will have questions on that, and we will answer those tomorrow.
New Zealands got a robust contact tracing system, and were seeing it in action, and
its served us very well.
As with every part of our COVID-19 response, well continue to focus on improving it.
However, even the gold standard of contact tracing isnt always enough to keep the
Delta variant at bay.
Weve seen that in New South Wales, where theyve previously stamped out COVID-19
cases very efficiently with their contact tracing system alone, but they have not managed
to achieve that this time.
Sydney, Australias largest city, is now in its seventh week of restrictions, including
a stay-at-home order, which is the result of the Delta outbreak.
For several days now, they have reported over 300 new cases.
We in New Zealand do need to look at that and make sure we are taking the lessons that
we need to take from that experience.
So were adjusting our response, and our likely response, to new, more infectious variants,
as we seek to ensure that COVID-19 does not gain a foothold here in New Zealand.
So as weve done from the start, we would look to respond very quickly to any potential
case of COVID-19 in the community.
Yes, we would continue to use our contact tracing systems, but we would also look to
escalate alert levels quickly in the event that we discovered a case of COVID-19.
That means it is more likely that we would end up with a short, sharp move to COVID-19
alert level 4 for either the affected area or the whole country, depending on the circumstances,
in the event that we saw a case of COVID-19 emerge.
As we know from our own experience, the best public health response is also the best economic
We dont want to spend a drawn-out period of time with restrictions in place, and a
short, sharp lockdown is more likely to be successful in the current context than a longer,
more drawn-out lower-level response.
So my message to all New Zealanders is that this is not over, that we are still going
to be dealing with COVID-19 for a while yet.
Further lockdowns are possible.
If they were to happen, they would happen as they did previously, with very short notice,
and everybody should have a plan for what they would do in those circumstances.
We dont want to spend a long time in lockdowns.
We dont want our health system to become overwhelmed, and we dont want COVID-19
spreading here in the New Zealand community.
And so thats why well continue to monitor vigilantly and to respond quickly, should
Its also why we continue to strengthen our border, and thats why weve decided,
based on the latest public health advice, to add Indonesia and Fiji to the very high-risk
That means that from 11.59 p.m.
New Zealand time, this Sunday, 15 August, travel to New Zealand from Indonesia and Fiji
will be restricted to New Zealand citizens, their partners and children, the parents of
dependent children who are New Zealand citizens.
Other travellers from very high-risk countries, including New Zealand residents, are required
to spend 14 days outside of a very high-risk country before they can fly to New Zealand.
The countries we announced in AprilIndia, Brazil, Pakistan, and Papua New Guineacontinue
to remain in the very high-risk country category.
We keep that under regular review.
Weve put these stronger measures in place for specific countries as outbreaks there
are out of control, and we want to reduce the risk to New Zealanders of people bringing
COVID-19 here from those places.
Travellers transiting through New Zealand from Fiji to other countries can continue
to do so but theyll be required to remain airside and spend less than 24 hours in transit
in New Zealand.
Weve made that decision on the basis that at the moment, if we didnt allow transit
through New Zealand for people travelling from Fiji, there would basically be no way
out of Fiji for anybody thats currently there.
The Governments continuously reviewing these border settings to ensure that COVID-19
is kept out of our country and out of our communities.
Today I can also report that expanded saliva testingthe programme that weve signalled
previouslyis rolling out now across multiple sites.
The first sites to be rolled out are at the Auckland Airport; ports in pua, Northport,
Auckland, PrimePort, within Timaru, Port Chalmers in Dunedin, and Taranaki.
Border workers on a seven-day testing cycle at these locations can begin saliva testing
This will be expanded over August and September to include the rest of the estimated 13,000
active border workers.
Itll provide further surveillance testing at the border and an option for those who
find the nasopharyngeal swabs frequently to be quite uncomfortable.
Its important that we continue to adjust and improve our border settings to deal with
new variants of COVID-19 so that we dont lose the gains that weve made and the freedoms
that we currently enjoy as a result of our elimination strategy.
As Professor Skegg noted in his reportand Im sure all of you have read thatwe
must prepare to maintain our border first before looking to open up our border.
So Ill now hand over to the director-general and then well take questions.
Thank you, Minister.
Kia ora koutou katoa.
Todays headline figures: there are no community cases, and we have two new cases to report
in recent returnees in managed isolation facilities.
So our total number of confirmed cases to date is 2,548.
Our other regularly reported numbers and details will be in todays statement from the ministry.
Just a little more on our COVID vaccination programme.
To further improve our vaccination reporting, were now using what is called Health Service
Utilisation or HSU data.
These data are now available on the ministrys website and has been an Excel spreadsheet
there since last Friday, and will be followed by more regular reporting from the next week.
Importantly, these data allow us to drill more deeply into vaccine uptake by Mori
and Pacific peoples, including the numbers of first and second doses and also the rates
per thousand in the population, and we can also report by DHB on each on those groups.
What I can say is as of 1 August, vaccine uptake amongst Mori and Pacific peoples,
for those aged 55 and over, were, by and large, similar to those for non-Mori, non-Pacific.
For Mori they were either the same or slightly higherthat is, the rates of vaccination.
We know that our Mori and Pacific populations have a younger age structure than the non-Mori,
Around 77 percent of the eligible population of Mori and 79 percent of Pacific are under
For those under age 55, currently our rates of vaccination for Pacific people are very
similar to, or higher than, non-Mori, non-Pacific.
For Mori, they are currently lower, but, obviously, as we move down through the age
bands we will have a particular focus on making sure the vaccination rates for Mori come
up to those, or exceed those, of non-Mori.
The work to date with those equal vaccination rates at age 55 for Mori and non-Mori
reflects a lot of hard work that has gone in by our Mori and Pacific providers, and
I want to thank them for that.
Just on the Rio de la Plata, all the Port of Tauranga workers who were identified as
having contact with that ship have now returned initial negative results.
Additional tests were required on some port workers32 of them.
All have come back negative, except there are just six that are pending and were
expecting to get those follow-up test results today.
As you will know, a total of 72 port workers were identified as contacts; 70 of those had
a day three test and the other twothe two pilotsare having both initial tests as
well as a day five and day 12 test.
They remain in isolationthose last twofor the full 14-day period.
So local Tauranga public health staff will be providing advice to border workers today
on their return to work and the majority are cleared to return to work today.
The crew of the Rio de la Plata remain asymptomatic and that vessel has now left New Zealand.
Whole genome sequencing by ESR was successful on eight of the 11 samples and showed that
those eight all had similar forms of the virus.
Theyre all the Delta variant and the results do link back to the pilot in Queensland who
helped guide the vessel down through the Great Barrier Reef and was on the vessel for two
days and who subsequently returned a positive test in Queensland.
So the assessment by ESR, and we would agree, is that the pilot was likely infected by the
crew on the ship.
Now, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board is working very closely, and has been for
some time, with the port in Tauranga and the companys employing port workers to improve
access to vaccination for those who are not yet vaccinated.
They have staff on site providing vaccinations from Monday for the next two weeks to help
support those efforts.
As in a media release we put out earlier today, and as is standard practice with any of these
incidents, Ive asked that my team review the response over the last week to that ship
and Ill provide the Minister with an initial update next week with lessons and opportunities
And in addition well do a fuller review looking at the response to all four of the
vessels that weve had over the last few weeks with infected crew members.
That includes the Playa Zahara, the Viking Bay, and the Mattina.
Its important to note that, of course, there have been many vessels coming to New
Zealand over more than a year, and because of the protocolsvery strict protocols around
use of PPE and minimising contact between crew and our workforcethose measures have
been very successful in keeping the virus out of New Zealand and preventing its entry
through the maritime border.
We are asking port workers, their close contacts, and the Tauranga community just to remain
vigilant around COVID-19 symptoms and follow all health advice and, of course, I strongly
encourage those of you who have not yet been vaccinated to be vaccinated.
The international situation, of course, as the Ministers alluded to, continues to
be of concern.
There was an increase of 18 percent in the number of cases in the fortnight to 7 August.
Total global cases now are more than 200 million and, unfortunately, total deaths now more
than 4.2 million around the globe.
The WHO continues to remind all countries that in order to defeat the pandemic both
within countries and indeed globally, we have to use a comprehensive approach of vaccines
in combination with proven public health and social measures that we know work, and this
is, of course, the approach we have taken in New Zealand since the start of the pandemic.
And the global picture reinforces all the more the importance of booking a COVID vaccination
when you become eligible.
Its been great to see huge interest and response over the last few weeks as the capacity
in the system has increased, and I want to thank New Zealanders for responding to that
call, and I trust that those of you who havent yet made a booking, but are eligible, will
Its going to be a very important part of our future ability to reconnect with the globe
as Sir David Skegg and others have pointed out.
Back to you, Minister.
Minister, will you phase in managed isolation for people whove had two vaccinations for
five to seven days?
Do you see that as realistic?
Is that something, a phased approach, that you would look at taking?
One of the things well talk about tomorrow is what the future road map might look like.
At the moment, today, of course Im focused on what were doing at the moment.
Were still some time away from that, but we will be talking more about that tomorrow.
Do you support the idea of a vaccine target?
Do we need to have one?
No, I dont.
Im not willing to settle for anything other than everybody whos eligible to get a vaccine
taking up the opportunity to get a vaccine.
And that is what all of the epidemiological community are recommending as wellthat
setting a target anything lower than everybody getting the vaccine is setting yourself up
to not be successful, and we dont want to do that.
Everyone should be taking up the vaccine, unless theres a very, very good reason
why they cant, and thats a very, very small number of people.
You mentioned saliva testing as well.
How many are being done now?
Whats the latest figures on those?
The numbers up till now have been not good, so it is now much more widely available, and
its available now as an alternative to the nasal pharyngeal swabs, so the cotton
bud up the nose, to use the technical term.
Previously, you had to do both; now you can choose either/or, so we do expect the uptake
rate will be higher now.
But thats really only starting to kick in from today.
To be clear, from now on, any sign of Delta, its straight to alert level 4.
It depends on the circumstances, but I guess what I wanted to foreshadow today is that
its certainly more likely that our response is likely to be swift and severe, in the event
that we were to see a case emerge in the community
So the working hypothesis, then, for the Tauranga ship now is that the crew infected the pilot
on 23 July or maybe in the days beforehand, and then by the time they came here, theyre
no longer infectious; and is there any sort of viral identification on their tests that
show that they were all historical cases?
That is the working hypothesis, and what the positive test result showed is there was a
mix of people who were in acute infection with a relatively low CT, and others with
a higher CT, who were recovering from an infection.
Interestingly, all were not symptomatic, and that remains the case as well.
So some were probably bordering on being historical cases, but it looks like the virus was moving
its way through the crew.
Minister, have you been given an explanation as to why the port was given flip-flopping
advice on what to do with the ship?
I think as the director-general and the ministry signalled earlier today, theyre having
a good look at all of that, and Im expecting a report on that some time next week.
Is New Zealands health system prepared to deal with an outbreak of the Delta variant?
Bryan Betty today said that our hospital system would be quickly overwhelmed if there was
a large outbreak here?
I think what youd find anywhere around the world where Delta has taken holdor
COVID-19, in fact, has taken holdtheir health systems are quickly overwhelmed.
Thats something weve avoided here in New Zealand, and we will do everything that
we can to continue to avoid that in New Zealand.
Thats not to say that we havent got our DHBs looking and planning for what they
would do in the event where they did see a sudden surge in COVID cases and they had to
deal with that.
Of course we expect them to be doing that, but our primary focus is on making sure that
that doesnt happen.
Are you looking at increasing the number of ICU beds?
So things like ICU beds, ventilators, oxygen supplyall of those things, were asking
DHBs to consider all of those in their contingency planning.
Perhaps Ill ask the director-general to add to that.
So two things there; thanks, Minister.
First of all, there is quite a well-developed ICU network across the country, and that has
been in place for a while.
And as part of the ongoing planning, of course, we look at whether and where new additional
ICU beds need to be built.
The challenge with ICU beds is not the beds so much as the staffing of them, because they
require intensive staffing.
One of the things we did last March and April was that we trained additional nursing staff
to be able to, in the event of having a COVID outbreak, provide that level of intensive
ICU nursing, and so all DHBs were required to train up additional nursing staff to be
able to do that.
As part of going back to district health boards to look at their readiness and preparation
in the light of the Delta variant, they will have another look at that as well, just to
make sure that is still current.
Do you have an indication of how many ICU beds that our workforce is now capable of
being acrosslike, I think at last count we had 744 ICU-capable ventilators.
It isnt a huge increase from what we had last year at the start of the pandemic.
Yes, Id have to go back and look at those data.
I seem to recall we were reporting on those almost daily back in March and April last
year, but will come back and provide data on the current state of things.
So we just basically asked, if we ordered more ventilators, would we have the workforce
to staff them?
Ill come back to you on that.
One of the main lessons from successful immunisation campaigns overseasin many of them, they
delayed their second doses, to get more first doses.
If youre now warning that Delta might be happening, and that was something that was
also in the Skegg reportthey said we might be liable to see a New South Wales - type
outbreak, would it be more useful for New Zealand to have more people with first doses
rather than the current system, which prioritises second doses?
That is something that weve been considering, and you can expect to hear more from us on
Im not announcing anything today, but it is something that we have been considering.
Whats the point of releasing the report today but then not answering any questions
New Zealanders have about it?
Look, thats the point of what were doing tomorrow.
So is that going to be covered tomorrow?
Is that what you mean by shortly, or is this
That would be a good guess.
Just back on Amelias questionI mean, you didnt quite answer it.
Youve given the report; the informations out there in the public arena.
Why not either have done that tonight or tomorrow, so we could all have had a read, or had the
actual response today?
Why this big wait?
Im sure if wed released it tonight or tomorrow then people would complain they hadnt
had enough time to digest it before the forum, so, ultimately, the information is out there.
People can digest that, and well be talking about it tomorrow.
David Seymour has been accusing you of focus-grouping parts of the Skegg report.
Its not true.
Its not true at all?
Its not true.
And is that the full extent of the advice youve got?
Its certainly the full extent of the written advice, but we have also met regularly to
talk through it, but the written advice is what we have released, yes.
In June you were considering mandatory QR scanning for some venues.
Whats happened with that?
Wheres that got to?
Its working its way through the last stages of the final Cabinet process.
I think, as I foreshadowed, the issue that we had to work our way through was compliance
and enforcement, because it raises some interesting issues around privacy and around how you do
that consistent with the legal constraints that we have.
I think weve now sorted that, so within the next week or two you can expect us to
make announcements on that.
There are a number of athletes who worked alongside Olivia Podmore and who are in MIQ.
Would you consider giving any exemptions for those athletes who are still in MIQ to attend
a funeral or memorial?
Well, first of all, can I just acknowledge the tragic situation, and how difficult it
will be for them to be in MIQ for that period whilst theyre also coming to terms with
what has happened.
They are not the only people that find themselves in these circumstances.
Tragically, people end up in MIQ in really difficult personal circumstances, and the
Olympians will be treated the same as everybody else who goes into MIQ where a tragedy has
And so if they apply for some form of exemption they would be treated exactly the same as
What our MIQ team are very good at doing, though, is working with real compassion towards
people who find themselves in MIQ, isolated at a time when they really need to be with
So they have, and I dont want to comment on any specific case, but they have, for example,
made sure that they can have video links to funerals and memorial services.
Theyve provided access to counselling where that is required.
They do a lot to support people, to surround them with love, even though they cant actually
be physically with other people.
Have they requested any exemptions or any
Those exemptions dont come to me; theyre processed by relevant officials based on health
That is the number one factor that gets considered here.
I would note that the Olympians are coming home from Japan, where the COVID-19 situation
is concerning, and so it will be difficult for them.
I didnt mean you specifically; I just meant in general.
Im not aware if theyve applied.
On the trans-Tasman bubble, the report suggests that we should prepare for the bubble to be
only available to vaccinated New Zealanders and Australians.
Is that a realistic expectation for when it opens, if it even does reopen?
I think what we have signalled is that its unlikely that the trans-Tasman safe travel
zone will simply reopen in exactly the same form as it was before all of this happened.
I think that things are likely to change.
And one of the things that we will, of course, factor in when we make the decisions about
the future of trans-Tasman travel is that vaccines, by that point, will be more widely
available on both sides of the Tasman, and it may be that vaccination becomes a prerequisite
for non-citizen travel.
Wed run up against some legal challenge if we made that a requirement for New Zealand
citizens, but for visitors and others it may become a requirement.
But we havent made a decision on that yet.
Are you investigating ways to circumvent that legal hurdle?
Havent at this point.
So that means next time it might reopen, Aussies but not Kiwi citizens will have to be fully
vaccinated to come in?
Thats certainly a possibility.
I certainly wouldnt rule that out.
In fact, I would say that thats something that well actively be exploring over the
next few weeks before we make that decision.
Youve asked New Zealanders in their day-to-day lives to wear masks in public transit and
to use the QR codes, and their follow-through has been somewhere between bad and abysmal.
Is the country complacent?
Is it ready for Delta?
If I can deal with masks and QR code scanning, or contact tracing recordsif I deal with
those two things separately, I think you can expect to see mask use being a much more important
and prominent feature of a response in the future.
So in any alert level escalation, and so on, I think youll see mask use much more included
in that, and well set out the specifics of what that might look like soon.
In terms of QR code scanning, or record-keeping for those who arent using the QR code system,
yes, in the context of the Delta variant, that is very, very important.
If we were to do a short, sharp level 4 lockdown, for example, the sooner we can contact trace
everybody, the sooner we can isolate the risk, the sooner we can get out of that.
And thats why QR code scanning, or keeping some other form of recordeven a pen and
paperis so vitally important.
If people do that, then, in the event that there is an incursion, the virus somehow makes
it through all of the layers of defence that weve built, then well be able to respond
to that much more quickly if people have been doing the right thing.
So am I concerned about our low rates of scanning at the moment?
Do I want people to do more of that?
Are we going to be using some additional tools available to us to ensure that that happens?
Yes, we will, and well talk more about that in the next few weeks, once Cabinet has
ticked off those final decisions.
Could that include fining for people not wearing masks?
Like I said, once Cabinet has made the decisions, Ill work through the detail of that.
Its not far off now.
Dr Bloomfield, at the weekend, T Mark Solomon described the Ministry of Health as the Ministry
of Incompetence, and weve also had the health Minister, Andrew Little, say that hes
extraordinary frustrated by the way that the Ministry of Health and DHBs have rolled out
some programmes and that he himself struggles to get the information he requires to do his
Do you have a response to that?
My response is that I am very focused on doing the best job I can in this role and I know
my team are as well across all the work we are responsible for.
Have you had any conversations with Andrew Little about his particular issues, and are
you working through them?
The Minister and I communicate regularly, and if there are specific issues that arise
we have a conversation and I respond to those as they do arise.
Is it a fair criticism that he cant get the information he requires to do his job?
Ill just go back to the comment I made; were focused on doing the very best possible
job we can in our COVID response, the vaccination programme, and across all the work were
Dr Bloomfield, can you please give us your understanding of thewith Delta, what is
the nature of asymptomatic transmission?
I know theres been a bit of a discussion about this in Australia, that, you know, you
are contagious, essentially, further before you could tell than perhaps some of the early
Whats the latest sort of thinking on that?
Well, asymptomatic infection and transmission has been around with us ever since the virus
The big difference with the Delta variant is that people seem to be infectious a couple
of days sooner than they were previously.
Previously, the sort of average incubation period was thought to be around four to five
days; it now seems to be a couple of days shorter than that.
Right from the start, as well, theres been some evidence that asymptomatic people or
pre-symptomatic people could be more infectious, in some cases, than those who did have symptoms.
It is very much individual-dependent.
The trick hereand, I mean, weve got this crew on-board the ship who are all asymptomatic
but are clearly infecting each other.
The thing here is just that shorter period between the time people are infected and when
they become infectious makes the contact tracing, testing, follow-up approach much more challenging.
And this is what weve seen in New South Wales.
And, you know, is the New Zealand contact tracing machinea question for both of youreally
geared up and ready to go to, you know, meet that shorter window, should it be required?
Yes, were geared up and ready to, and also weve put some thought into how we might
use that system differently.
And, again, we saw this with the recent case here in Wellington, where we went very widely
and used the system intensively for just that one case.
So, early on, if we had a case or one or two cases, we would use the same approach.
If we got further infectionsas weve seen in New South Wales as wellyou cant
really maintain that level of intensity, so we would adapt it and use it a bit differently,
depending on the number of cases and also whether there was an alert level change in
place at the same time.
Media: Minister, do you have an update on port workers vaccination rates and whats
happening here to get more done?
Yes, in fact, I do.
So the latest numbers that we have in is that we have now 61 percent of our active port
workers have had the full two doses; 9 percent have had one dose so farso a combined total
of 70 percent.
Across the different ports, I can say that, with the exception of Auckland, Nelson, and
CentrePort* here in Wellington, all of our ports are sitting at around 85 percent or
higher for their port-employed workers.
We do sill have an ongoing challenge with our contracted workforces at the ports.
So, happy to run through those numbers.
For ISO Ltd, they have 200 people vaccinated and 230 unvaccinated; for C3 Ltd they have
206 vaccinated and 201 unvaccinated; for SSA New Zealand Ltd, they have 157 vaccinated
and 107 unvaccinated; for Independent Stevedoring Ltd, they have 63 vaccinated and 87 unvaccinated;
for Wallace Investments, they have 123 vaccinated and 60 unvaccinated.
If you ask me again next week, Im happy to provide an update on those numbers.
So when you look at what happened with the Port of Tauranga, and how low that number
was, was that just a stroke of really bad luck that you had so few that actually had
No, because the majority of people concerned here werent necessarily employed directly
by the port; they were employed by one of those companies that Ive just mentioned.
So its the contractors that are the big issue?
It is the contracted workforce at the ports that is proving to be challenging and the
most difficult to budge.
And outside of the mandate that youve obviously put in place, which is still a little way
off, what conversations or what can you do, I guess, with those private companies?
Well, those conversations are ongoing, and Im happy to provide a regular update on
how they are doing.
Further to that, why did you suddenly change the rules yesterday to make vaccines more
available to all port workers, even peripheral port workers?
Sorry, what was that?
Why did you suddenly change the rules yesterday so that everyone who comes into contact with
the ports can get vaccinated, rather than just strictly the frontline port workers?
I could speak to that.
I had a meeting yesterday with the chief executives of all the ports that had actually been planned
a couple of weeks previously.
This was raised with me as whether this is something that could happen, and I said I
would take that back, talk to the team, and if we felt that was something that could be
implemented we would talk to the district health boards about ensuring that access could
be widened to, really, anyone who touches the ports.
One of the things to bear in mind is when we did group one, in the very beginning, when
we defined whos in group one at the very beginning, we were focused on those who were
at risk working at our ports and at the border.
There are tens of thousands of people who work at the border, and if wed included
everybody who had anysorry, who interact with the ports, I should sayif wed included
anybody who interacted with the ports we would have had a very, very large group, most of
whom werent in that high-risk category.
Now that we are in the position where weve got bigger supply and we can do larger numbers
of vaccinations more quickly, it is sensible to look at how to do that efficiently.
If were having vaccination sites on-site at the port, for example, as well as reaching
those people who are required to be vaccinated, we can reach others as well, and thats
a pragmatic and sensible thing to do.
With the warnings of lockdowns today, are you essentially saying that contact tracing
is an ineffectual tool alone in dealing with the Delta variant?
What we know is that Delta moves fast, and so contact tracing needs to move fast as well.
One of the ways that we can assist the contact tracing to be effective is to limit the movement
of people while that system kicks into gear and does that first part of the process.
Previously, where the virus was taking longer to spread, the contact tracing process could
get ahead of it.
Now we know, from the experience across the Tasman, that if you dont get ahead of it
very quickly, then actually it becomes very, very hard to get ahead of it without a prolonged
period of restriction.
So what Im indicating is were more likely to go hard and early again than we have been
in the recent past, because we dont want to find ourselves having to do a longer lockdown.
Are you saying just a single case or a handful of cases, youd lock down in that situation?
That is quite possible, yeah.
I mean, you can never say absolute yes or no, but certainly I think our tolerance for
risk here is very, very low at this point.
Dr Bloomfield, on a different health issue, theres some confusion and debate around
conversion therapy, so I thought Id ask you, as our top doctor.
Is it your understanding that puberty blockers are a legitimate form of healthcare thats
required to treat people with gender dysphoria?
Look, Id have to come back to you on that.
Im very happy to follow up the question afterwards.
Minister, what would you say to people who were maybe hoping that this report from David
Skegg would provide a clear roadmap to how the borders would be reopened, but I guess
instead weve got a cautious report that sets out how its very doom and gloom, and
youve come up here today and said that level 4 lockdowns would be quite likely if
we had Delta in the community?
What would you say to those people?
I think if you read through all of the report, youll see that actually some of that advice,
if anything, has become more pessimistic as time has gone on, and it reflects the fact
that COVID-19 isnt a static situation.
Were constantly looking for room to improve and for ways to improve our systems, because
the risk that we face is changing all the time.
Now, if COVID-19 had stayed the same over the last 18 months, I think that you could
safely assume that we would have nailed down our responses.
It would be very predictable.
People would know what to expect.
Theyd know the road map out.
The reality is thats not what were dealing with.
Were dealing with a situation that continues to evolve and change, and so our response
is going to need to evolve and change.
Everybody wants to get out the other end of this.
No one wants to see the border closed for a prolonged period of time.
I think we all want to be able to reunite with people who are important to us.
We all want to have that sense of freedom to be able to travel again.
Our business communitywe all recognise that for our business community, the movement
of people is vitally important.
None of us underestimate all of those things.
As soon as we can provide more certainty, of course we will look to do that.
Tomorrow, what youll see is the Prime Minister will set out some of our thinking, some of
the markers along the road that people can expect to see, but its not a definite blueprint
with milestones and, you know, time lines, because theres still so much that we dont
If you were to be faced with a situation like at the end of June, with the Sydney man who
visited Wellington, and you knew that it was Deltayou know, is what you said today an
indication that even a story like that could see a harsher approach taken, level 3 or something
And Dr Bloomfield, would you think of yourself as a one-trick pony?
Look, Ill make a comment on that.
If one trick is keeping New Zealand safe from a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc around
the rest of the world, I think all New Zealanders can be very proud of the record of Dr Bloomfield
and his team.
I think we have been incredibly well served by our health professionals in New Zealand
during the global pandemic.
It has been incredibly challenging.
It has been uncertain.
Theyve had to continue to evolve and adapt as the facts have continued to change.
Theyve continued to provide reassurance to New Zealand when New Zealanders need reassurance,
and I want to reiterate this again: our health system has continued to do everything that
it would normally do, despite the global pandemic, and were one of the few countries that
can make that claim.
So I think Dr Bloomfield has served us very well, and I think his whole team has as well.
There is just shy of 1,500 border workers who
are found to be not complying with their legally required testing.
That number has sort of been the same for several weeks.
Is that just, sort of, what the reality is, that not everyone is going to bein fact,
many people just wont get tested within the time frame that they need to?
And what can be done about that?
Sorry, did you want to have a lash at that?
No, Im happy to follow on from you, Minister.
Look, were working really hard to make sure that that required testing order is being
complied with, and thats a pretty granular process.
Its literally going through name by name to identify whether theyve been tested,
and if they havent been tested, why not.
Sometimes a legitimate reason is identifiedyou know, theyve been on leave, or something
In other cases, the timing is just a day or two out.
In other cases, they may have skipped a test, and so that is something that we follow up
on and we would be concerned about.
Its sort of 12 percent of them is roughly whatits been static.
So is that sort of an indication of that group of people, or is it a widespread
Its only recently thatthe numbers have moved around, and it is only recently that
weve been able to get back to having reliable reporting numbers, because, for a while there,
a significant chunk of the workforce werent being reported, because of the troubles that
were happening in the Waikato.
So weve been able to get back now to a point where weve got a baseline that we
can have some trust in.
That would suggest that that number is relatively static, but when you get into it and you bore
that down, you get to, in any particular caseso if we take MIQ, for exampleyou get to a
list of people, and when they work their way through that list of people, its maybe
a couple of dozen at tops, at the most.
When they go through that list of people, they can generally resolve it.
But yeah, I would like to see everybody being tested in accordance with the requirements.
Saliva testing I think will make a difference because itll be easier and itll be less
invasive, but it is important for us that our border workers are all tested.
Whats your assessment of rapid antigen testing at the moment, Dr Bloomfield?
Well, actually, Ive got my team getting a plan together to test some of the better
rapid antigen tests to see what place they might have in our response into the future,
so thatll be one of the things that well talk a little bit more about tomorrow.
Is it not disingenuous to say that there isto get to the other side of this, whereas the
report today paint a picture that there is no real other side of this; it is continued
management of COVID-19?
Perhaps if I could use an analogy that Professor Skegg has also used, the world didnt just
return to normal after September the 11th; it returned to a new normal and we got used
to that and life started to feel normal but it looked a little bit different to the way
that it was before.
I think that a similar thing will happen with COVID-19.
Therell be a new normal and we will get used to that and we will have more freedom
and things will feel more normal, but we dont yet quite know exactly what the road to that
is, but were going to set out some thinking on that tomorrow.
Thanks very much, everybody.