As New Zealanders prepare for holiday long weekend the government is imploring Kiwis to remain vigilant in the face of Covid-19 after an infected man walked into a popular Auckland pub last week.
The Labour weekend is spent by many travelling to holiday hotspots around the country. However, with the use of the government’s Covid tracer app dropping to one of its lowest usage rates, the three-day holiday is also being used to “rehearse” for the Christmas holidays.
“My message to everybody is, the more we prepare the less we’re going to need to respond,” the health minister, Chris Hipkins, said on Friday.
On Friday, there were nine new cases of Covid-19, eight of which were caught at border quarantine facilities. Seven were among fishing crews from Russia and the Ukraine, while the other imported case was an arrival from Iran. The domestic case was a household contact of the marine worker cluster.
There are now a total of 66 active cases of Covid in New Zealand.
The director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said he did not know how many people used the official Covid app to check in to The Malt in Auckland’s Greenhithe last Friday – which the infected man visited – but it was a small amount. However, he was “hopeful” there would be an increased uptake over the long weekend.
“It’s really useful if people use it,” Bloomfield said. “The more we scan, the safer we’ll be.”
Hipkins reminded businesses of their role to keep people safe, especially if there were Labour weekend sales or gatherings. “We know how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand, we’ve done it many, many times but we all need to continue to play our part,” Hipkins said.
He said using the app was not compulsory, partly because it would be difficult to enforce, but also because New Zealanders have shown in recent months that they were happy to do the right thing.
In September, when all of New Zealand was at alert level two, there were as many as 2.5m QR code scans per day. However, on Thursday, just days after confirmation of new community cases in Auckland, the number of daily scans dropped to 415,080.
Bloomfield said that people have fallen into the pattern of a diminished alert level, but there was still an ongoing threat. “The pandemic is not going away any time soon.”
It’s been seven months since New Zealand marked its first Covid-19 case. Hipkins said the country has improved its ability to respond to it. Tests have surpassed 1m, contact tracing is rapid, and the borders are tight, he said.
“New Zealand has results that are the envy of many other countries around the world.”