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'No new cases of concern overnight', as Auckland enters Covid-19 Alert Level 1 — Hipkins

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says he’s not been told of “any new cases of concern overnight”, as Auckland joined the rest of the country at Alert Level 1. 

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The Covid-19 Response Minister says "extensive testing" means authorities are confident there isn't widespread transmission.

“I haven’t been notified of any new [Covid-19] cases of concern overnight, so that’s always a good way to start the day,” Hipkins told Breakfast. 

He said the most recent outbreak in Auckland looked to have been “reasonably tidy” and contained. As of yesterday, there are eight people connected to the outbreak in two households. 

“If we do see any further positive cases, as long they’re connected back, then there’s not too much to be worried about,” Hipkins said. 

He said “extensive testing” in the past week also meant authorities are confident there isn't widespread transmission of the virus. 

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Authorities are continuing their investigations into the source of the latest community cases, Hipkins said. The “most likely” source remains Case B - a person who worked at Māngere’s LSG Sky Chefs near the airport and largely handled laundry. 

Face coverings are also now required on public transport across the country. 

Hipkins said it was about bringing everyone in line with precautions being taken in Auckland. 

“We’re seeing good degrees of compliance with that. What it means is that it helps that if you do get a positive case and they’ve been on a bus, the likelihood of having spread is that much lower. 

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“So, it’s a good precautionary measure for us to have in place.”

Police will be visible in the coming days to help “educate” people about the new requirement, he said. 

Vaccinations were also beginning to ramp up, and were looking “very good so far”, Hipkins added. 

He said about 400 border workers were vaccinated yesterday, with more doses of the Pfizer jab expected in the country “shortly”. 

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Hipkins said authorities were now turning their minds to preparing to scale up vaccinations from a few hundred a day to tens of thousands by the middle of the year when mass inoculations begin. 

As for a two-way trans-Tasman bubble, talks continue between New Zealand and Australia, Hipkins said. The “sticking point” remains how each country would handle any resurgence in Covid-19 cases in the community. 

Talks also continued between New Zealand and Australia’s state authorities. Hipkins said this was complex because while Australia’s federal government controlled the national borders, state premiers were in charge of local lockdowns.