9563 cases, 16 further deaths as NZ moves to orange. Video / NZ Herald
Health officials have urged New Zealanders to be prepared for Covid-19 as they head away to different parts of the country for Easter.
There were 9563 Covid-19 community cases reported yesterday as the country settled into the orange setting of the traffic light system with fewer mask-wearing requirements and indoor gathering limits lifted.
The Ministry of Health reported a further 16 Covid-related deaths yesterday that had occurred over the previous 13 days, taking the total toll to 547. There were 519 people in hospital, including 24 in intensive care.
Thursday’s case numbers were a slight increase on Wednesday but the seven-day rolling average continues to decline with yesterday’s average 8990 compared to 11,791 last Thursday.
It came as the health ministry said some Easter holidaymakers will need to isolate where they are if they catch the virus while away or become a household contact.
Those travelling using their own vehicle would be able to travel home to isolate if they tested positive or were a household contact, but needed to take public health precautions so others didn’t get infected, such as social distancing and using self-service petrol stations.
However, people who used public transport to travel, including flights, or travelled between islands will need to isolate where they are, which could mean extra costs covering additional accommodation.
“It is important you have a plan and the ability to isolate where you are holidaying, if you need to do so,” the ministry said.
Air New Zealand said 125,000 passengers were expected to fly domestically over the Easter period. Queenstown and Dunedin were the top three destinations for the airline during Easter.
Yesterday’s community cases were in Northland (476), Auckland (1903), Waikato (744), Bay of Plenty (410), Lakes (185), Hawke’s Bay (357), MidCentral (415), Whanganui (202), Taranaki (314), Tairawhiti (78), Wairarapa (107), Capital and Coast (650), Hutt Valley (382) Nelson Marlborough (329), Canterbury (1617), South Canterbury (199), Southern (1089) and the West Coast (103).
The location of three cases was unknown.
With New Zealand now in the orange traffic light setting some mask requirements have been lifted, including in schools and hospitality venues.
Masks are still required in settings such as retail, on public transport and inside public facilities.
University of Otago epidemiologist professor Michael Baker said while eased restrictions in places like bars might not have the impact they otherwise would have, had many younger people not already been exposed to the virus, he saw relaxing mask use at schools as a particular risk.
“In an environment where only 22 per cent of 5 to 11-year-olds are fully vaccinated, the only barrier for most of them is a mask. “
Schools and early learning services have notified the Ministry of Education of 31,382 cases across their communities in the past 10 days.
On March 24, the ministry had been alerted to 64, 455 over the 10 days prior.
Just over 54 per cent of 5 to 11-year-olds have had their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 21.1 per cent have had two.
Of Maori children, 35.2 per cent have had one dose and 10 per cent have had two doses.
For Pacific children, these figures are 47.3 per cent and 11.2 per cent, respectively.
Meanwhile, in Auckland, train services are returning to their normal timetables after Covid-19 absences resulted in schedule changes.
Trains have been running at a 20-minute frequency on the Southern, Western and Eastern lines and Pukekohe and Onehunga trains had been operating every 30 minutes since March 7.
From April 19, the services would return to the normal gap of eight to 10 minutes.
Auckland Transport metro optimisation manager Richard Harrison said customers could also expect fewer cancellations across the network as the impact from Covid-19 was reduced.