Coronavirus: Waikato border shifted further south, new COVID-19 cases in Raglan and Hamilton

The Government has shifted the level 3 border around Waikato further south, after five new COVID-19 cases were found in the region. 

Twenty-nine new community cases of COVID-19 were reported by the Ministry of Health on Thursday, 22 in Auckland and five in Waikato's Hamilton and Raglan. All the Waikato cases have been linked to previous known infections.

"This morning ministers have considered the public health advice and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to extend the boundary further south," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said at an unscheduled 1pm press conference. Originally the Ministry of Health only planned to send out a press release with the latest updates. 

"That means the boundary will follow the coast south to Mokau, and then east along the northern Pureora Forest Park, then north to include Te Awamutu, Karapiro and Cambridge, where it will meet the existing boundary." 

Waitomo District - including Te Kuiti - would be covered, as well as Waipa and Otorohanga districts and the airport. Travel by air is restricted to people who've been granted permission, Hipkins said, and only after a negative test.

The newly included areas would join the rest of Waikato at traditional level 3, and won't be enjoying the minimal new freedoms granted to Aucklanders under their separate level 3 earlier this week. 

A map of the new boundaries would be on the Ministry of Health's Unite Against COVID-19 site soon, he said. The level 3 restrictions will kick in from 11:59pm Thursday and remain in place until at least 11:59pm Monday, giving Cabinet a chance to review them earlier that day. 

Seven testing sites in Waikato are now operational, in Hamilton, Tokoroa, Karapiro, Raglan, Huntly and Kawhia. There were 6480 tests carried out in the region on Wednesday. 

"Vaccination is the best tool that we have to provide everyone with individual armour against COVID-19 and to reduce the need for these types of restrictions again in the future," said Hipkins.

All 50 staff potentially exposed to the virus at a recent exposure event at Waikato Hospital have tested negative. Most have been cleared to go back to work, but six considered close contacts are being required to isolate for 14 days and undergo further testing.