Coronavirus wrap: Traffic lights, record cases, third doses

A broad outline of the new system for managing COVID-19 restrictions has been delivered, but critics say it's confusing; there's 129 new cases; some hospitals are still rushing to prepare for the virus, and a third dose of vaccine is now available.

New 'traffic lights' response system for COVID-19

The Government unveiled its plans for the nation to move on from the alert level 1 to 4 lockdown system once a high vaccination target is achieved.

The new 'protection framework system' describes the rules that will apply under red, orange and green settings.

It will come into play once all 20 DHBs across the country have vaccinated 90 percent of their eligible population.

Those with a vaccination certificate will be entitled to more freedoms, and businesses with vaccination certificates be able to operate at all levels under the new guidelines.

However localised lockdowns could still be used if cases grow in any areas.

The new system was criticised for being confusing and slow, by the National and Act parties, while the Greens and Māori parties said more protections were needed for vulnerable people.

Under red, the strictest scenario, regional boundaries apply. Businesses, schools and public facilities can open following capacity and distancing rules, but working from home is encouraged. Contact tracing must continue, and people must wear masks in public places.

Whereas in the green setting businesses, schools and public facilities can open with no extra measures for those with vaccination certificates. Masks will be required on flights and encouraged indoors, and contact tracing will still be required.

Today's cases numbers: 129 new cases, plus two Northland cases

Another 129 people tested positive for COVID-19, the Ministry of Health reported - the second triple-digit day (102 cases were reported yesterday). Nine of the new cases were tested in Waikato, the rest were all in Auckland.

Two new cases were later discovered in Northland, after the official count for the day was delivered (they will be among tomorrow's figures).

The pair are contacts of a diagnosed Auckland case, and authorities said they weren't linked to earlier COVID-19 positive travellers who visited Northland.

The two newly diagnosed people had been allowed to travel to Kaikohe from Auckland under alert level 4 rules, and are now isolating there.

The Parua Bay Tavern, near Whangārei, has closed because of a connection to the cases.

There were no more signs of COVID-19 in Hawke's Bay wastewater or from testing after news yesterday that a person had travelled to Hawke's Bay while infectious with the virus, but more testing will be done next week.

The Ministry also restated its call to anyone from the Auckland suburb of Redvale to get tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a cold or flu, following a large party held there in the weekend - as well as residents of New Lynn, North Shore, Rosedale and Bayswater.

Net widened for financial help, and more help for businesses

More people can access hardship support from the start of November until February, after the Government relaxed some criteria for qualifying for financial assistance from Work and Income.

Those working 40 hours a week on the minimum wage will be able to get grants to pay for food and other bills.

The Government also announced a boost to the COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment, to help businesses hit by lockdowns.

From 12 November, the available payment will double to $3000 per eligible business and $800 dollars per full time employee, with a maximum of 50 employees, each fortnight until the country shifts to the traffic light system.

However there were mixed reactions in the business community, with the extra payment welcome, but frustrations over the unknown length of time before the traffic system would come into play.

Hospitals still scrambling to prepare for COVID-19

RNZ revealed that none of Auckland's hospital emergency departments have finished their COVID-19 preparations, more than nine weeks into the outbreak and with patient numbers set to surge.

Building work is continuing at hospitals to create more negative pressure rooms - the gold standard for safely isolating COVID-19 patients, but that some would not be finished until the end of the year.

Third dose of COVID-19 vaccine made available

Doctors can now prescribe a third vaccination dose against COVID-19 to some immunocompromised New Zealanders who meet "complex" criteria.

The Ministry of Health said this group of people may not be able to form a strong immune response against the virus with the standard two primary doses. But after reviewing research, their advisors believed a third dose could help provide better protection for some.

This third dose is different to booster vaccination doses against COVID-19, which are not yet available in New Zealand.

The Ministry said its technical advisory group would made a recommendation on booster vaccinations in "coming months", and an assessment was being carried out by Medsafe. The final decision would rest with Cabinet.