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New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says the country may never find out the source of the current outbreak, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she lies awake at night pondering the ways in which it may have happened.

In today’s update, Dr Bloomfield said there were 49 new cases of covid-19, all in Auckland.

He said we may never find out how the virus got into the community in the latest outbreak.

Ardern said she lay awake at night pondering the ways in which it might have happened.

“Now we’re left with theories without people-to-people contact,” she says.

Dr Bloomfield yesterday welcomed the lower number of new cases – 53, down from 83 the previous day – but with lower testing numbers on Sunday cautioned against putting too much stock in it, saying it was just one data point.

Ardern also announced Auckland would remain in lockdown until at least September 14, and Northland would likely move into level 3 just two days after the rest of the country’s Tuesday night change.

Progress but caution needed
Today Ardern said alert level 3 for all of Aotearoa south of Auckland is progress but still required “a high level of caution”.

“Bubbles stay in place,” she said.

She said it was not until level 2 that people could contact those outside their bubble.

She also reiterated that delta had meant changes to level 3.

Watch today’s covid-19 update

49 new community cases. Video: RNZ News

Facemasks needed
Outward facing businesses must have employees wearing facemasks and everyone else were encouraged to wear masks while out and about, she said.

“Stay at home, keep bubbles small, exercise and shop locally, keep your distance from people … work from home if possible, keep young and old people at home.”

Ardern said public venues remained closed.

From tomorrow, all people aged 12 and older could book in for a vaccination.

To businesses, Ardern said operating must meet health measures.

Travel across the alert level 3 and 4 boundary was strictly limited, she said.

The boundary is there to “stop the spread of a particularly tricky and infectious virus”, she said.

Tail needs to be ‘short as possible’
She wanted the declining case number to decline.

“We want the tail of this outbreak to be as short as possible.”

Ardern said the alert level for the South Island would be reassessed in a week’s time.

The government did not want to make decisions that were “premature”, she said.

“We would not have moved to an alert level 3 environment if we did not think it was safe.”

The government was being overly cautious and using level 3 in a place where it might have once used level 2.

Ardern said everyone from “all walks of life” needed to be the best roles models they could be.

Vaccine strategy
She said the vaccine strategy was always to ramp up towards the end of the year.

“Every day for me is another step, a bit of progress, but I want to see sustained reductions … we’ve still got a journey to go through,” Ardern said of case numbers dropping.

Ardern said that by and large, MIQ had done the job of keeping the virus out of New Zealand.

The fact that it has been so long without the virus in the country showed how rigorous the MIQ system was, Bloomfield said.

Ardern said the outbreak had shown how important elimination and vaccination were.

Dr Bloomfield said teams were looking at alert level 2 settings and how they could be strengthened – including mask use.

Ardern said the government would give people a refresher on the rules for alert level 2 when needed.

Frustrated over Parliament
On Parliament sitting today, Ardern said she was frustrated because there were alternative ways to do it.

“It is a disappointment that we could not have been as agile as the rest of New Zealand.”

“Our view was that moving to an online forum would have allowed opposition MPs to have access to MPs from across the country.”

While MPs were essential workers and legally allowed to travel, it was up to them to choose to travel, she said.

She reiterated her disappointment in the decision by opposition parties to reject an online sitting of Parliament.

Dr Bloomfield said his advice on Parliament – if it had to sit – was around mask use, social distancing and the number of people that could be in the debating chamber safely.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health was facing continued criticism from vaccinees over its communications about a possible dosage error that may have meant some were getting saline instead of a Pfizer shot.

After people affected were told they would receive a letter, a couple vaccinated on the day in question received just one email between them which advised calling an 0800 number that did not answer their questions.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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