Dr Rawiri Taonui 14 August 2020 |The Covid Resurgence in Auckland
|14 Aug 2020 07:57 AM|
|Author: Dr Rawiri Taonui|
|Photo image supplied / Dr Rawiri Taonui|
Dr Rawiri Taonui 14 August 2020 |The Covid Resurgence in Auckland
On Tuesday night 11 August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced four new cases in the community in a Pacific family in South Auckland. The Prime Minister announced a 72-hour Level-3 Alert for Auckland.
With two cases announced late last night, there are 19 new in Auckland. The majority are Pacific and Māori.
The outbreak began with four cases in a family of six in South Auckland: three adults and one child.
The first case that tested positive was a woman in her 50s. She was swabbed on Monday after displaying symptoms for five days. On Tuesday, she was tested again to confirm the positive result. She works for Finance Now in the Dominion Road area. The partner of the index case has also tested positive. He works in Mt Wellington at AmeriCold. The company has four sites in Auckland, including at Auckland Airport.
The third family member is a woman, in her 20s, who visited Rotorua, Taupo and an aged care facility in Hamilton on Saturday with four others on the weekend of August 9. The fourth case is a pre-schooler who also travelled to Rotorua.
The Spread of Cases
Finance Now has a workforce of 130. The worksite is now closed. Staff have been tested. One staff member and one family member have tested positive. More results are forthcoming.
AmeriCold has 160 staff spread across four sites across Auckland. The sites in Mt Wellington and Auckland Airport are closed. All staff are being tested. As of yesterday, three AmeriCold staff and seven family members have tested positive.
100 casual contacts are being tested. A relative who attends Mt Albert Grammar has also tested positive. 100 students and a handful of staff who are considered close contacts have been advised to self-isolate for 14 days.
Widespread testing is underway in Auckland, Rotorua, Taupō and Tūrangi. Waikato DHB is testing at the aged facility in the Waikato. The Ministry of Health is testing all Auckland based Air New Zealand ground staff, border immigration staff, biosecurity and custom officers and all isolation and quarantine staff - a total of 2,800 people. A total of 10,00 tests were conducted on Wednesday.
The NZ Covid Tracer App
More individuals are downloading the government app. The app has 986,000 registered users, 338,000 new ones in the last 48 hours. There are over 3 million entries. The government has made it a requirement that any business wishing to remain open. There are now 138,000 posters â€“ 51,000 new in the last 24 hours.
Source and Scale of Transmission
The 72-hour 3-day alert will not give the Ministry of Health time to find the source of the infection or find any other active cases.
The index case has no overseas travel history or immediate link to someone who did, or a high-risk worker such as someone who worked at a managed isolation hotel or at the border. The primary source of transmission is therefore unknown.
Slight changes in the RNA of Covid-19 occur about twice a month. These can be mapped. For example, most of the Covid-19 cases in the first wave came from North America and Australia rather than Asia. The type in the Auckland outbreak is called B111. This has not been found in any recent cases to have come across our border. It has shown up in Britain and Australia and some other countries.
A first scenario is that a returning New Zealander has transmitted Covid-19 to a border or isolation/quarantine staff member, they have passed it to one or more persons and eventually, it has reached the family in South Auckland.
Another possibility was that the virus may have come into New Zealand through a cold food shipment. AmeriCold has warehouses that handle imports from overseas. One of the staff who tested positive works in one of these facilities. The workplace is being swabbed. Last week, China reported that the virus had been detected on the packaging of imported frozen seafood in Shandong province. None of the people who handled the seafood has tested positive for Covid-19, but they are now in isolation.
The third scenario is that someone has come across the border, passed through undetected, and gone into the community.
One of the Americold staff members was on 9-days sick leave before testing positive. This suggests the first infection in this outbreak began 10 to 20 days ago. The incubation period before persons with Covid-19 show symptoms is on average four to six days but can be up to 14 days in some rare cases even a few days longer. China has reported people showing symptoms at 17 days. People with Covid-19 can also remain asymptomatic. If the first case or initial subsequent cases remained asymptomatic or only had mild symptoms, then Covid-19 could have been spreading in Auckland for some time. There will be many more cases. There is also a possibility that someone from Auckland or having recently visited Auckland has transmitted Covid-19 to another town or city in New Zealand.
Endnotes and concerns for Māori and Pacific
The government is encouraging the use of masks. Masks are compulsory on plane flights, which is good because during a pandemic a plane is a test tube for virus incubation. More generally, the move is positive, it is also political. The government has held off making masks compulsory in public or more importantly in public spaces such as supermarkets where social distancing is difficult to maintain. The government’s advice is designed to avoid the kind of media coverage we have seen from overseas of resistance to masks in the name of ‘freedom’. They need to step up and lift the requirement to wear masks in supermarkets. No one is free to infect others.
The government has also released 5 million masks. That sounds a lot, but in reality, it is one mask each. Within a week of their first case, Taiwan nationalised all PPE and mask making and issued all citizens 10 masks each per week. Their per capita cases are 90% lower than ours. Everyone should wear a mask when visiting a supermarket or other confined busy spaces during this emergency.
Auckland now has 10 checkpoints north and south staffed by the Police and Defence Force. This model is vindication of the widely vilified Māori-led checkpoints set up during the first wave.
There is evidence that many Aucklanders are attempting to flee the city to holiday homes. Depending on the announcement later today, iwi may consider working with the Police to again protect their rohe. Ngāti Whātua are already adding presence to current checkpoints.
In March/April, the Iwi Leaders Forum Covid-19 Response Group made a recommendation to the government on this very that there be many more checkpoints around the country and that these be manned by the Police and Defence Force. The proposal was rejected.
Emerging Concern for Māori and Pacific communities
One main emerging concern is that after the massive effort during the first wave, Māori and Pacific communities are being differentially impacted by the outbreak in Auckland. The Ministry of Health’s ethnic data is difficult to decipher. However, on current analysis 13 or 15 of the 17 identified cases in Auckland are from the Māori and Pacific community.
A picture is that the first wave affects richer communities, in our case Pākehā, because they do more international travelling. Second waves strike marginalised communities because they are poorer, have less protection and health care. It may very well be that it was never wise to place isolation and quarantine facilities in a 36% Māori and Pacific South Auckland.
During the announcement on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined the care required to look after the vulnerable aged and those with comorbidities. The government and the Ministry of Health avoid highlighting that all Māori aged over 50 are vulnerable. Canada, Australia and even the Donald Bump-led United States recognise the specific vulnerability of indigenous peoples. Australia is explicit that Indigenous first peoples aged over 50 are at risk. This is one reason Aboriginal cases of Covid-19, at least by June, were half those for Māori in Aotearoa.
Covid-19 conspiracy theories are consolidating around Billy Te Kahika and the new Public Party. Conspiracy theories arise out of uncertainty and anxiety. Fed by manipulative people, often gifted with natural charisma and communication skills, and fuelled by social media they prey on anxious minds.
Covid-19 is not a pandemic or a scamdemic. It is not a UN or freemason plot. It has nothing to do with 5G or FKC. No one has tried to assassinate Mr Kahika. Mr Kahika is a wonderful musician but was never in military intelligence. His claims are anti-intelligent.
First Nation indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities and the poor are beginning to suffer significant trauma on a scale not seen since colonisation. Thousands are beginning to die in Latin America. African Americans, Indigenous Americans and Pacific Island communities in the United States are dying at rates up to three or four times those of white Americans.
Covid-19 is the pandemic of death for our generation. As you read this column, Covid-19 will be surpassing 21 million cases and 750,000 deaths worldwide.
Today, the government will announce the next step. Without time to conduct all necessary contact tracing and testing it is Auckland will remain at Level 3 or go to Level Four for two more weeks.
Noho haumaru - stay safe and self-sovereignty
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