Covid 19 coronavirus: Perth traveller in managed isolation, faces fine or possible jail; NZ vaccine numbers update; $1m to help India’s virus response

A traveller from Perth who flew to New Zealand despite the lockdown in Western Australia may face a fine of up to $4000 or six months in jail.

It was revealed yesterday that a New Zealander was able to board a plane in Perth while the city was in lockdown, and then fly to Auckland via Sydney even though transtasman flights from that state were meant to be on hold.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said at today’s Covid update that the man was still being investigated.

“Any person who enters NZ who is ineligible for quarantine-free travel is required to isolate for 14 days.”

A fine up to $4000 or six months’ jail is the penalty for breaching the Air Border order, he said.

The risk from the person’s travel to New Zealand was “low”, and he had not attended any of the locations of interest in Perth.

The traveller had tested negative before leaving Perth, was now in a managed isolation facility and would be tested on day 12 of his stay.

The Covid-19 response relied on people following the rules, he said.

Earlier today Immigration NZ manager Peter Elms said the breach was found during routine passenger checks after the man arrived in New Zealand on Monday.

“He had left the airport by the time we realised that that was a passenger that had come from Perth and was ineligible,” Elms told RNZ.

The ministry said the public health safety risk was assessed as low.

Enough vaccines for all NZers

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said at today’s update that there will be enough Covid vaccines for everyone in New Zealand – but Kiwis will need to be patient in some cases.

In total, about 232,000 vaccine doses have been administered so far.

There have been 172,564 people who have had first doses, and about 60,024 who have had both doses.

In the past seven days, there were 47,981 vaccine doses administered.

There are no new community cases to report today, and two cases in managed isolation facilities. The two cases travelled from the United States and Japan.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand is currently 27.

Airport worker's close contacts test negative

Meanwhile, all close contacts of the Auckland Airport worker infected earlier this month have now returned negative tests.

Bloomfield said there were no new clues as to how the worker, who cleaned a plane carrying passengers from high-risk countries, was infected.

Bloomfield said 488 applications had been received from Sport NZ – including Black Caps and Olympians – for early vaccinations, as well as seven applications from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“We are also adding to our stocks of the Pfizer vaccination. We have received around 685,620 doses into the country – enough to vaccinate more than 342,000 people with the two doses required for maximum protection.”

AstraZeneca is on track for a decision in June about whether it will be MedSafe approved. There is not currently a plan to include it in the vaccine rollout.

A considered clinical approach would be needed to determine how to use it, if it was approved, Verrall said.

The vaccine rollout was currently three per cent ahead of schedule. Northland DHB was running behind schedule, and a bigger effort to use the vaccines available there is underway.

A total of 95 per cent of MIQ workers were now vaccinated, and some of those unvaccinated had appointments to get a jab, Bloomfield said. Staff who are unvaccinated will be redeployed from the frontline from the end of the month.

Patience would be required for the nationwide rollout, partly because a two-week gap between the flu vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccine was recommended, Verrall said.

An extra 2000 to 3000 full-time vaccinators will be needed for the rollout when it ramps up from July. More GPs, pharmacies and urgent care facilities will be able to vaccinate people from July, she said.

Brochures about this roll-out are being delivered to letterboxes.

Verrall said she received her second dose of the vaccine on Friday, and she had quite a sore arm after hitting the gym afterwards and a slight rash.

NZ to give $1 million to Covid-ravaged India

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has just announced that New Zealand will contribute $1 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross to assist India in its response to surging cases there.

“We stand in solidarity with India at this difficult time, and commend the tireless efforts of India’s frontline medics and healthcare workers who are working hard to save lives,” Mahuta said.

Some $1m will be donated to the International Federation of the Red Cross to assist India while it responds to the current surge in Covid-19 cases

The Covid-19 situation in India has progressively been getting worse over the last few months.

On Sunday, the country recorded the worst single-day increase in cases in any country since the pandemic began, with 352,991 new infections; it also reported 2771 Covid-19 deaths.

“We believe a contribution to an international organisation that has a reputation for delivery is the most practical assistance we can make to India at this time,” Mahuta said.

“This is a distressing and challenging time for the people of India and we will work alongside the international community as we work to combat the debilitating impact of Covid-19 on the health of our people.”

She added that the New Zealand Government would continue to monitor the situation and “stands ready” to assist the Indian Government.

“[We] extend our deepest sympathies to the whānau and friends of those who have had their lives cut short by this terrible virus,”

The International Federation Red Cross (IFRC) is working directly with the local Indian Red Cross Society to provide oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, and other crucial medical supplies.

The IFRC is also looking at scaling up emergency operations across India by providing intensified ambulance and blood service, and distributing personal protective equipment and hygiene kits to communities in need.

Verrall said the situation unfolding in India is “extremely distressing”.

NZ cricket players in India wanting to return home could do so if they wished, and there was space in MIQ at the moment.

Quarantine-free travel from Perth resumed at midday today, but contacts and casual contacts of cases are not allowed to travel to New Zealand until at least 14 days after they were at respective locations of interest.

They will also need to test negative.

At last Wednesday’s update, 140,580 first doses and 42,771 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been administered.

About 95 per cent of Kiwis are getting their second Pfizer vaccine jab within five weeks of their first dose.

That means about 2000 of those who are fully vaccinated had their second jab more than two weeks after the recommended time to receive it.

The main disadvantage for them, according to Auckland University vaccinologist Dr Helen Petousis-Harris, is that they may have been more vulnerable to Covid-19 for longer than they otherwise would have been.

“It’s not that the person’s not going to have as good immunity in the long-term. It’s that they might not be protected as much as they might like while that second dose is delayed.”

One dose is thought to be about 70 per cent effective against symptomatic infection within three weeks of receiving it (though one study in Israel said 57 per cent) – but this jumps to 95 per cent two weeks after a second dose.

By the end of the week, border workers who haven’t been vaccinated are expected to be redeployed away from the frontline.

From midnight tonight, only New Zealand citizens will be able to fly directly home from countries deemed “very high risk”, which currently includes India, Brazil, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.

NZ residents will still be able to travel to New Zealand, but will first need to have spent 14 days outside of those countries.

The new risk-based approach – which aims to keep our border controls from being overwhelmed – is expected to reduce traffic from those countries by 75 per cent.

The pre-departure requirement to test negative within 72 hours of flying remains.

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