Coronavirus: Elimination strategy in Auckland hanging by thread as unlinked cases remain high

There were 41 new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Saturday, but 21 of them are a mystery, or unlinked, making stamping the virus out that much harder. 

The elimination strategy in Auckland is hanging on by a thread. Locals flocked to the beach or to the park for a taste of freedom. 

"It's a beautiful day out here for a picnic and it's good to get out of the house as well," one Aucklander said.

There were 40 new cases in Tamaki Makaurau and one in Waikato. For the first time, the number of unlinked cases, 21, outstripped the number where the source is known.

"They indicate that there's more transmission in the community," says University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker. 

"By the time you've identified their contacts, they can have infected other people and there could be quite long lines of transmission."

Wastewater testing has been detected cases in Raglan, Beachlands, Pukekohe and Wellsford with locals encouraged to get tested.

The case in Waikato is a household member of two existing cases already in quarantine. 

In Northland, wastewater and nasal tests show no signs yet of community transmission.

"If both those systems don't identify cases then, yes, Northland could move down to alert level 2 fairly soon," Prof Baker says. 

But one person linked with two women who travelled to Northland has tested positive and moved into an Auckland quarantine facility. Officials say she was infectious after returning to the supercity.

Contact tracers have stopped identifying subclusters within the Auckland region. Officials will be hoping vaccination rates succeed in quelling Delta, more than current restrictions have