Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Level 3 v2 begins

At 11:59pm tonight, most of New Zealand moved to Covid Alert Level 3, though Auckland will remain at Level 4 for probably two more weeks, and Northland (the part of New Zealand to the north of Auckland) will remain at Level 4 until this coming Thursday, pending some wastewater test results. It’s the first step toward a return to normality in what’s still an active outbreak.

Today, it was announced that there were 49 new cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland, and all linked to the cluster. This brings the total number of cases in the outbreak so far to 610. Of those, 33 people are in hospital, and eight of them are in intensive care; two of the ICU patients are on a ventilator. Of the active cases in Auckland, six are under the age of 1.

Those statistics show why the government is being cautious: The new cases have been found two weeks after the entire country went under Lockdown, meaning they were mainly infected within their bubbles. open up too far too soon and the outbreak will surge. This underscores how much worse it would’ve been if we hadn’t gone under Lockdown. That high infectiousness, and the fact that so many of the infected people are young, shows how very different the Delta Variant is. All the old rules are gone.

Auckland remains under Level 4 because it’s the epicentre of the outbreak. All of the 15 cases in Wellington are linked to the Auckland cluster, directly or indirectly. There have been no cases that originated outside of the Auckland cluster.

Northland is under Level 4 while wastewater is tested for the presence of the virus. That’s because several workers who were exposed to the virus at jobs in the Auckland region live in the Northland region. If the tests are clear, then Northland will move down to Level 3 later this week.

The Level change means only slight easing of restrictions: We’re still to stay at home. Schools, churches, and most workplaces are still closed. People are expected to work from home and stick to their bubbles.

However, under Level 3, more businesses can sell stuff online (up until now it’s been only “essential goods”), and stores can also offer contactless click and collect (that is, customers order online, drive to the store when the order is ready, and store staff will place it in their boot (for most vehicles, that means the staff person will be about two metres from the driver) or place it in a socially distanced spot when the customer arrives to collect the order. Masks are mandatory for all people in the transaction.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway shops will be able to offer contactless delivery or contactless pickup. News reports suggest that people are eager to get takeaway coffees—and I bet part of the reason is because they won’t have to make it themselves.

The only part of all the changes that really affects me is that I can order stuff for my garden projects to pick up in store (or, maybe, get them delivered). As it happens, tomorrow—our first day day under Level 3—is the first day of Spring. However, I’ll probably wait a few days to let the pent-up demand get cleared. Besides, the weather isn’t yet ready to be Spring-like.

The only other change relevant to me is that under Level 3, it’s possible to extend our household bubbles to add one or two other small households, which means it’ll again be possible for me and my cousin-in-law to form an expanded bubble. We did that last year, too.

On the whole, I’m looking forward to a Level change, even if it won’t actually change that much for me. Being able to get supplies for my Spring projects is one thing that will help me a lot—hopefully the weather will help that, too.

When New Zealand went down to Level 3 last year, I called it “Lockdown Lite”, which is fair, I think. In my photo for that Level change, I use a photo of a locked padlock with the key in it, and said: “If Alert Level 4 can be thought of as a locked padlock, then Alert Level 3 puts the key into that lock. It’s still locked, but it can be opened a bit if we need to.” I’m continuing that imagery this time, too, but one padlock is still firmly locked and without a key. That represents Auckland (and, for now, Northland). The lock with the key is the rest of us under Level 3.

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