Christchurch won’t go into lockdown despite two new cases, and MIQ stays will be cut in half and followed by home self-isolation, the government has announced today.

Two cases were discovered in Christchurch last night, however Cabinet has decided they are isolated enough for Christchurch to remain in Level 2.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced at the 1pm press conference today that two positive Christchurch cases have had no major exposure events and close contacts have been identified and isolated.

The cases live in the Bishopdale area where vaccination rates are at 90 percent for first doses, and 70 percent for second doses, Hipkins said.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said a member of this Covid-positive Christchurch household travelled to Auckland to provide childcare, before returning to Christchurch on Friday October 15.

They received a negative test before travelling to Auckland, and another negative test before returning to Christchuirch.

They were not considered to be infectious during travel back to Christchurch, said Dr Bloomfield.

“The second case works as a truck driver. The company he works for is assisting in tracking his movements for the three days he was working while potentially symptomatic. We do know at this stage that they were travelling around the Christchurch area, with some trips just North of Christchurch,” Dr Bloomfield said.

Three households have been identified as close contacts, with a total of nine people.

A wastewater sample was captured on Tuesday that returned negative. Dr Bloomfield recognised that this is likely with only two positive cases, but there will be increased testing over the next few days.

Today’s new cases

Overall, there were 89 new cases today, with 83 in Auckland, four in Waikato and two in Christchurch. 

There are 37 people in hospital, all in Auckland, with 5 in intensive care.

Border rules update:

Minister Hipkins also announced today the Government’s strategy for easing border restrictions over the coming months.

“As vaccination rates have increased internationally the number of Covid cases being picked up by our MIQ facilities has continued to decline,” Hipkins said.

“We now only get two to three cases per 1000 arrivals, and only around one in 2000 is detected after seven days of isolation.”

In response to these decreasing numbers, the Government has created a three-step process for easing MIQ restrictions for travellers to New Zealand.

In addition, full vaccination will be required for all non-New Zealanders travelling to New Zealand from the first of November.

Step one: 

  • MIQ stays will be reduced from 14 to seven days. 
  • Travellers will be tested at day zero, three and six, and receive a rapid antigen test before travelling from MIQ.
  • They will then self-isolate at home for around three days, getting another test on day 9 and wait at home until that result comes back.

This change will be made from November 14.

“This evolution will free up around 1500 rooms a month,” Hipkins said. “Many of those will be used for community cases, but some will be re-released using the MIQ voucher system.”

Step 2:

  • Reopen the border to more low-risk travellers, allowing them to bypass MIQ altogether
  • Starting with travellers from low-risk Pacific communities such as Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Tokelau.

This change will be made starting November 8.

Step 3:

  • Moving towards more people isolating at home. 
  • This option will be made available to an increasing number of travellers in the first quarter of 2022. 

“The length of time people will be required to isolate at home will depend on a number of factors, including what more we have learnt about dealing with Delta by that point,” Hipkins said. 

This step would commence after New Zealand had achieved the 90 percent vaccination goal of the newly introduced traffic light Covid-response system, Minister Hipkins said.

“When the Covid-19 protection framework is bedded in, 90 percent of eligible New Zealanders will be fully vaccinated. So we’ll have a higher level of confidence for letting international arrivals go straight into the community.”

“My message to all New Zelanders, whether here or abroad, is a very simple one: get vaccinated. Then we can all get back to doing the things we love, and seeing the people we love.”

More stories:

Let’s talk about: Will vaccines have long term effects?

Rangatahi react to eating kānga pirau (rotten corn) for the first time

Festival drug-checking services will now receive government funding