At 1730 hours yesterday evening, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the change of COVID alert levels that took effect at 1200 hours on Wednesday would remain in force until the end of 26 August.
The announcement was not unexpected. The scale of the outbreak in Auckland and the fact that the family at the centre of it travelled about a bit meant that a number of people scattered across the Auckland city area were exposed to those with COVID19. Yet at the same time, with the exception of two cases in Tokoroa, it has not spread outside of Auckland.
In the 72 hours since the Government announced on Tuesday night that New Zealand was moving back up the COVID19 level system, 30,000 tests have been conducted including 15,703 on Thursday. This equates to roughly 0.6% of the population of New Zealand being tested in that time. Out of those tests all of the ones that returned positive results were related to a single cluster in Auckland including the two in Tokoroa.
Without doubt this is a major blow to Auckland. It will hurt a lot of businesses that survived the big lock down a few months ago and who – when reopening – might have been scared of what another blow of similar magnitude would do. For a few this will be the worst possible news and it is quite likely that some smaller businesses without significant financial or other resources to draw upon will be sent to the wall. One can only feel for them.
Several major sporting fixtures are up in the air because of the Level 3 alert in Auckland. They include the Canterbury Crusaders-Auckland Blues fixture which was going to see 40,000 people go to Eden Park for the rugby match of the year. Further south, the Hurricanes-Highlanders fixture is meant to go ahead in Wellington, but will now be doing so behind closed doors. So, whilst the Auckland Rugby Union and Wellington Rugby Union’s will not be making any money from not being able to host these fixtures, it means very busy nights ahead for bars elsewhere in New Zealand.
It will also be another blow for schools around the country. For those not in Auckland it will mean seating restrictions in classes and some normal activities will not be permitted. For Auckland schools it will be worse. Except for those with students who are children of essential workers, school is out until 27 August at the earliest. Playgrounds are closed, sports and other contact activities as well as the facilities hosting them are closed.
However fundamentally the Government has, once again made the right call. It has been pragmatic in not escalating further up the levels, as it is confident that New Zealand has this current surge under control and the case for a further escalation does not exist. New Zealand can still claw back our status as the only country largely living a normal existence and we always knew that COVID19 would come back at some point. That seems to be happening now.
Lets beat it.