Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Ashley Bloomfield dismisses depiction of Department of Health’s reluctance to increase contact tracing
August 24, 2021 Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said the Department of Health was never opposed to increasing surge capacity for contact tracing, although this was explicitly mentioned in a independent review of the February outbreak.
Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said the Department of Health had never opposed increasing surge capacity for contact tracing, although this was explicitly mentioned in an independent review of the February epidemic.
He also revealed that the youngest case of the outbreak to date was less than a year old.
Bloomfield and other health officials appeared today with Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins before the select health committee to answer questions from opposition MPs.
There have been 41 new cases today, including 38 in Auckland and three in Wellington.
There are now 148 cases cluster-wide, with 11 cases in Wellington and the rest in Auckland.
Contact tracing capacity was highlighted as almost 16,000 contacts have been identified, but half of them are still awaiting test results.
THE STORY CONTINUES AFTER THE LIVE BLOG
THE STORY CONTINUES
A review by public health experts – as part of the Independent Advisory Group led by Sir Brian Roche – of the February cases revealed a ministry reluctant to increase surge capacity for contact tracing, and a reluctance to test the system or to do a scenario. Planning.
He said this contributes to the lingering uncertainty about the system’s ability to handle a large-scale outbreak.
But when asked about it today, Bloomfield dismissed the way the department was represented.
“It is not an opinion that I have or share, that we did not need to continue building surge capacity,” Bloomfield told the committee.
“I cannot explain why this was reflected as such in the report, but it certainly never was my position, or that of any senior member of the ministry.”
Last week, Roche said the ministry had worked on scenario planning and increasing surge capacity, having previously been reluctant to do so.
The ministry says its contact tracing system can handle up to 3,000 new contacts per day (associated with up to 180 cases) and this can be expanded to handle 6,000 new contacts per day (associated with 1,000 cases).
Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay revealed that about half of the highest-risk contacts still had not received their test results.
There were 369 more close contacts, of which 51% had test results and 11% were positive, she said.
There were 14,967 close contacts, 56% returned test results and 0.2% were positive.
And there were 405 more casual contacts, of which about half were tested, without any positive results so far.
Bloomfield said cases were increasingly coming from places of interest or close contact, rather than from people infected before the lockdown.
When asked, Hipkins would not say if the government offered more money to Pfizer to speed up vaccine deliveries.
“I will not go into our trade negotiations.”
He said Pfizer has not made an offer for faster delivery of the supplies for more money.
He previously said throwing more money at Pfizer to skip the line would be “unethical.”
“It would have been unethical to try and effectively bribe our way to get it earlier. It’s just not the way we operate as a government,” Hipkins told the Herald in July.
Hipkins said the government dropped alert levels in Auckland too early in February this year and needed to step up again – and that lesson had been learned.
The government was “extremely” aware of the challenges posed by the health workforce, but this was something that the government could not resolve quickly.
“All health workers are still under pressure.”
Hipkins said he did not know how many intensive care nurses had been brought to New Zealand since the start of the pandemic.
As of April 2020, 353 registered nurses have been granted a border exemption to come to New Zealand, and 331 of them are still ashore.
Immigration NZ does not collect information on whether any of them are an intensive care nurse.
There are now 519 primary care providers involved in the immunization rollout, including 143 pharmacies and 289 medical centers.
Hipkins said he was told the Janssen vaccine, which received Medsafe’s approval, could not be delivered in the third quarter of this year, and a fourth quarter delivery “may be possible but may be difficult.” .
Medsafe approved Janssen in July for those 18 and over, and the government bought five million doses and hoped to have it as a vaccination option, although it still wanted to focus on Pfizer.
Today’s cases were announced at 1 p.m.
Eighty-nine of the total 148 cases have been epidemiologically linked, and while the remaining 59 cases are under investigation, Bloomfield said there was no suggestion at this time that they were part of a chain separate transmission.
One of the cases is an Auckland MIQ worker, but they had caught the virus as a contact from an existing case rather than being suspected of being the potential source.
Bloomfield earlier today revealed the number of cases in the subgroups for the first time: 58 cases in the Assembly of God church service in Mangere and 23 cases in the Birkdale group.
He said there were six sub-clusters in total and the other four had far fewer cases.
The church subgroup, which included six people in Wellington, included people who had attended the August 15 service and their close contacts.
Bloomfield said 27 different faith groups participated in the service and the total number of people serving had not yet been determined. More than 500 people have been tested.
There are now nearly 16,000 contacts, of which 6,000 have yet to be reached. Of the 369 “very close contacts”, 10% had not yet been contacted.
Bloomfield said the Department of Health was gathering more information on how many cases could spend time in the community before the lockdown while infectious, including whether any of them could be a essential worker.
He said that while there had been an increase in the number of cases today, there had not been an exponential increase, and if the lockdown worked, the number of cases would peak in the coming days.