Daily cases in New Zealand’s coronavirus outbreak have continued to fall, with just 13 new infections recorded on Thursday, the sixth day in a row that numbers have been below 21. The downward trend is an encouraging sign the tough lockdown measures are working and that the country is making progress towards stamping out the virus.
It came as the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced the government had secured another 250,000 Pfizer vaccines from Spain to enable the vaccine rollout to continue at pace.
The total number in the outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant is now 868. All the new cases are in Auckland, which remains in a level four lockdown until next week, with seven of those cases epidemiologically linked to existing cases.
There are 30 unlinked cases in total, but the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said health officials were working on establishing links.
Of the total cases, 264 people have now recovered from the virus. There are 31 people in hospital, with five people in intensive care.
As of Thursday, more than 38,000 close contacts had been identified, with 87% of those having had at least one test. There were nearly 67,000 vaccine doses administered on Tuesday, bringing the total to 4,100,658. About 64% of the eligible population (aged 12 years and over) have now had at least one vaccine dose.
Day-three tests of more than 120 patients potentially exposed to a Covid-19 case at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital have all come back negative. Tests from 29 staff were also negative.
All 149 contacts remain in isolation, Bloomfield said.
Ardern said the country was making solid progress, but that people must remain vigilant.
“Testing numbers have picked up, but if we are to have the confidence we need that Delta is under control, we need to test, test, test,” Ardern said.
Ardern also provided an update on securing vaccine supplies from overseas.
“Last night, we completed an agreement with Spain for a quarter of a million doses of Pfizer vaccine.”
Ardern thanked Spain and its president, Pedro Sánchez, for agreeing to sell New Zealand the doses.
How much the government paid for the vaccine has not been revealed, but Ardern said the deal was made “in good faith”.
The vaccines departed Madrid on Wednesday and are due to arrive in the country on Friday morning, which will enable the government to continue rolling out its vaccine programme at “significant or record high levels”, Ardern said.
New Zealand is vaccinating 1.5% of its population a day. “At our peak in recent weeks, we’ve been vaccinating more people per capita than countries like the UK, the US, Australia and Canada were at their peaks,” the prime minister said.
New Zealand remains well behind most of the developed world in the proportion of population fully protected with two doses, but it is now, proportionally, ahead of Australia in the number of first doses administered.
“It’s been heartening to see so many New Zealanders getting vaccinated recently and the additional doses that we have purchased from Spain will help us provide additional capacity and walk-in sites through September,” Ardern said.
A second, larger deal with another country is being discussed, but the details of that will be revealed next week.