Dr Bloomfield blames 'pressure', 'couple of curveballs' for Auckland COVID-19 vaccine worker shortage

The Director-General of Health has blamed the increased pressure on Auckland's health system and "a couple of curveballs" for a shortage in healthcare workers in the first few days of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield was asked about the shortage at a press conference from the Beehive on Friday afternoon, at which it was announced the entire country would remain at alert level 4 until at least 11:59pm on Tuesday.

It comes amid hours-long wait times at testing centres across Auckland and widespread confusion over vaccination bookings.

Quizzed on how health officials were hoping to ramp up vaccination rates in Auckland when some vaccinators had been redeployed at testing centres, Dr Bloomfield admitted there had been challenges.

"Obviously there's a lot of pressure in the Auckland region," he said, adding that jabs had been able to resume at general practices and vaccination centres since the recent outbreak started.

Dr Bloomfield went on to explain "a couple of curveballs that we might not have expected" were also partly to blame for the shortage.

"One of our very first cases was a health worker at Auckland City Hospital, and so that created some challenges there… and overnight, North Shore Hospital [had a case] - so that's created an additional challenge."

But he said work was continuing with DHBs to address it, and various solutions - including training students to assist with swabbing - were being explored.

"There is huge demand, and the DHBs are really ramping up the testing to meet that, and the general practices are also running at full-bore," Dr Bloomfield said.

"So we're continuing to increase the capacity and we're working regularly with the DHBs to see how we can help them on the workforce side."

Earlier in the press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the alert level 4 lockdown will remain in place for the entire country until at least 11:59pm on Tuesday, August 24.

She said Cabinet would review the decision on Monday, and urged Kiwis to continue checking locations of interest, isolating if they are a contact, staying at home and sticking to their bubble.