Covid 19 coronavirus: Vaccine rollout update, Melbourne mourners caught sneaking into New Zealand

A group of people from Melbourne have been put into managed isolation in New Zealand after misleading officials about where they were travelling from.

Up to three people were caught at the New Zealand border last week trying to get into this country without declaring they had initially come from Melbourne, Victoria.

It is understood they planned to attend a funeral while in this country.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the three arrived in Auckland from Melbourne via Sydney.

This was a breach of the lockdown restrictions and the pause on the travel bubble.

Bloomfield said relevant border agencies would review processes, even though it appeared this was the result of “disappointing actions” from the three people concerned.

The trio were transferred into MIQ where they will stay for 14 days, Bloomfield said. They have all tested negative, and their three-day test results are due tomorrow.

Melbourne is subject to a two-week lockdown as the city battles to contain a community Covid-19 cluster.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the three people who travelled from Melbourne were caught at the border even though they had provided incorrect information.

Asked why they weren’t sent back to Australia, he said they weren’t part of any exemptions so they were put in MIQ, which is what is meant to happen.

They could face potential fines, but that was up to police.

“The most immediate consequence for them is 14 days in MIQ, which they will have to pay for.”

Bloomfield said he hadn’t looked into whether the trio should face charges. They may also face charges in Australia for breaking the Melbourne lockdown rules.

Hipkins said he understood the three people were normally resident in Australia.

Two new 'acute' Covid cases in MIQ

In New Zealand today there are no new Covid community cases – two new acute cases in MIQ and two historical cases.

Bloomfield confirmed a Jet Park hotel MIQ guest had been admitted to Middlemore Hospital overnight.

There were “well-rehearsed” processes for people like the patient in an acute condition who has been transferred to hospital.

It is understood they had been trying to get here for a funeral being held this week.

The three people are now carrying out a two-week isolation period in a managed isolation facility.

Restrictions are currently in place for anyone from Victoria wanting to travel to other parts of Australia.

As of this afternoon, there are 83 active cases in Victoria, local health officials reported.

That includes New South Wales, which has a declaration form people must complete to say they are entering on or after May 13 or if they have been in Victoria in the last 14 days.

People are exempt from completing that declaration form if they live in the New South Wales or Victoria border region and only travel within that area.

NZ vaccine rollout update

Meanwhile there have been more than 750,000 doses of the vaccine administered so far, an increase of 107,000 in the last week.

Almost 500,000 people have had one dose – 498,670 people – and more than 276,000have had two doses.

Hipkins said that was 10 per cent ahead of target.

He asked people in Group 1 and 2 who haven’t been vaccinated to get in touch to get a jab.

“You’ll be helping yourself, your friends and your family by coming forward.”

Hipkins told reporters there was “unevenness” around the country, and some people in Group 3 have been vaccinated in some parts of the country, whereas others have not been vaccinated.

“There is a bit of balancing going on there,” he said.

“This is a marathon and not a sprint. We are scaling up in a sustained and controlled manner.”

Hipkins said today’s nurses’ strike meant that it would be a “relatively slow” day for vaccines.

Up to 30 per cent of sites might be affected, he said.

More strikes might lead to more slow days, but Hipkins encouraged the parties to get back to the negotiating table.

“It’s not going to be big set back for us although it will be a quiet day.”

He didn’t want to speculate on what might happen if there were more strikes.

New freezers to store vaccines

Hipkins said 17 more ultra-low temperature freezers – costing $20,000 each – to support the rollout were now in place and were going through their final tests. They would enable a Covid vaccine hub in Christchurch, he said.

A dozen fridges will be in Auckland and five will be in Christchurch. It will mean up to 4 million vaccine doses can be stored at any given time.

Bloomfield said there were no new Covid community cases to report today, and two new acute cases in MIQ and two historical cases.

He said about 450 people were flying into Auckland from Melbourne today, and two further flights were due tomorrow with a further 300 people.

Bloomfield said travellers had to declare that they had not been to one of the 350 locations of interest in Victoria.

He said health advice for pregnant women was that they can be vaccinated at any stage of the pregnancy.

Vaccinating during pregnancy may also help protect the baby, Bloomfield said.

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that about 1 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered in July, meaning the rollout can be ramped up as planned.

There was a danger that the rollout would have to be slowed down or even stopped if vaccine supplies didn’t arrive in time.

“We now feel assured that won’t occur,” Ardern said yesterday.

“At least for our existing programme, I breathed a sigh of relief when I got a message from Minister Hipkins telling me what July was looking like.

“It will still take some planning, but we don’t have quite the same anxiety we had previously that we were ramping up maybe too quickly for the deliveries.”

Pfizer had also said that shipments in August should be larger than in July, Hipkins said.

Cabinet will make further announcements about the rollout, including how to use the online booking system, on Monday.

At last week’s update, about 235,000 people in New Zealand had been fully vaccinated – about 9 per cent ahead of delivery targets, though Auckland Metro was almost 23,000 doses behind schedule.

Yesterday Hipkins said the biggest gaps in vaccinations among border workers – who are meant to be at the front of the queue – were at ports.

He was commenting on figures released to the Weekend Herald showing 3800 non-MIQ border workers are yet to have a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

It’s unclear how many of them are subject to a public health order, which requires all MIQ workers and all Government employees at the border to be fully vaccinated to work on the front lines.

The Government also wants an estimated 50,000 household contacts of border workers to be fully vaccinated to create a vaccinated safety barrier at the border.

But only half of them have had at least one vaccine jab.

National Party Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop said the Government’s rollout was a joke.

“The vaccinating of Group 1 border workers was meant to be completed by the end of March.

“Thousands of high risk people remain very vulnerable. It’s just not good enough.”

Figures released to the Weekend Herald also show about 1100 workers at the border who are not getting tested within the required timeframe.

Bloomfield also confirmed to the Weekend Herald a non-compliance rate of 4 per cent for MIQ workers getting tested regularly. This translates to about 180 MIQ workers.

The rate for non-MIQ border workers was 14 per cent – or about 930 workers.

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