Coronavirus: Cases bounce in wrong direction, expert warns 'with this pattern hard for Auckland to move down alert levels'

The number of COVID-19 cases in the community has bounced in the wrong direction, with 23 new cases reported on Saturday, all in Auckland.

But perhaps more concerningly, the number of mystery cases is also up to nine. Those are the cases not yet linked to a subcluster and there are 36 of them in total.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker says "with this pattern it would be quite hard for Auckland to move down alert levels in the coming few days".

It was day 24 of lockdown, and 23 new cases. Not what people were expecting. 

Aucklanders were hopeful this would be the last weekend they would spend in alert level 4. But hope seems to be slipping through their fingers. 

Concerningly eight of Friday's eleven cases were infectious in the community. That has led to 16 new locations of interest being listed online, including Dayspring Laundromat in Papatoetoe and Chemist Warehouse in Manukau. Pak'n'Save in Clendon Park was visited four times by an infected person last week. 

"We have to get on top of transmission that's still happening at the moment in Auckland and these data are telling us there is still some lines of transmission that we haven't fully stopped," Baker told Newshub.

Just weeks ago, there were testing queues four hours long. Now the queues are barely four cars long. That's even after a special plea from Dr Ashley Bloomfield. 

"This weekend is critical that we get high testing numbers," he said on Friday. 

If Aucklanders turn up in their droves this weekend, high testing numbers will help the Government make a decision on Monday. It will also help them to understand whether there is any undetected transmission in the community. 

But judging by the numbers in Mangere, it may not be enough.

There are currently 36 mystery cases that haven't been linked to the wider cluster. 

Baker says that number of unlinked cases is a problem. 

"That's much more serious because it suggests there's still ongoing transmission in the community in Auckland that alert level 4 hasn't fully extinguished."

He says it's important that we play by the rules this weekend because the last thing that we want to do is take out foot off the pedal and give the virus any chance of spreading.

While 23 cases may sound bad, the trend is still tracking downwards and we haven't seen the exponential growth that places like Sydney have.

Newshub has also been told by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service that, as of 2pm on Saturday, 182 of 200 close contacts related to the Middlemore exposure events have tested negative.

Level 4 has been hard for everyone, but for some it's been tougher than others. 

By the end of the day, Papatoetoe's Fijian Indian Community will have given out 2200 food parcels. 

Keeping bellies full, even if it means Auckland won't be out of alert level 4 any time soon.