Coronavirus: Chris Hipkins says jump in case numbers not unexpected but 'sobering'

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the jump in Wednesday's COVID-19 cases wasn't unexpected, despite it being a "sobering" number.

Forty-five new cases were announced at the 1pm update, 33 of which are known household or close contacts who were isolating during their infectious period. Director-General of Health Dr Bloomfield says there are 26 household contacts among these - 12 came from two households, with six in each. All of the new cases are in Auckland.

"Many of these cases were expected," he says. "On Monday, I indicated there were between 45 and 50 cases at that time likely to arise amongst household and other close contacts who had already been identified. We're seeing some of those coming through in the number today."

Interviews are underway with the 12 unlinked cases, but Dr Bloomfield says that potential links for six are already visible.

The last time more than 45 cases were announced in a single day was on September 2 - 49 were confirmed that day.

Since Auckland moved to alert level 3 last week, more businesses have been able to operate, and some of Wednesday's cases may have been working in these essential or permitted premises during their infectious period. Dr Bloomfield says these people who may have been working are either being interviewed or are about to be.

"This emphasises the importance of everyone in Auckland continuing to abide by alert level 3 measures. They are there for a reason, and this includes mask-wearing and minimising contact with others," he says.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty Images

Additionally, "quite a proportion" of cases announced recently are among people living in emergency or transitional housing, he says.

"The teams are working very hard with a range of agencies to support those people. And those people, who by the very nature of those housing arrangements they are in, are moving around for a range of reasons and may have been [moving] through alert level 4 and 3," Dr Bloomfield says.

"One of the things the team in Auckland is doing is identifying all the, what they might term, higher-risk transitional or emergency housing or hostel settings, particularly in south Auckland, and over the next few days they're going to be going out and testing all the people in those settings."

He added people affiliated with gangs aren't among the cases and there has been a "good uptake" in COVID-19 testing within these groups.

Hipkins says despite the 45 new cases being a "big number" and it being "sobering", the new infections are largely concentrated in bigger households and he does expect there to be "blips".

"We have seen blips already in this outbreak where we've had a bad day, where we've had a larger number of cases and then it's gone down again," he says.

"I would encourage people not to read too much into it at this point. We've still got to hold our nerve here and we're still pursuing COVID-19 and aiming to run it into the ground."

There have been 1230 cases in the current community outbreak, and 986 of these have recovered.