Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s first post-cab of the year will be mostly Covid-focused

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed the country’s first Covid-19 vaccine could be granted approval in New Zealand in just over a week.

This is the first time the Government has put an explicit timeframe on the vaccine’s approval.

Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins spoke at a post-Cabinet press conference today.

Ardern said the recent Northland community case was an “unwelcome” situation but something that the Government has prepared for.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Health revealed a 56-year-old woman in the region had tested positive for the virus.
The PM said it goes to show what a “tricky virus” Covid-19 is.

Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins revealed there were no new community cases today – out of the 16 close contacts of the person in question – 15 have returned negative tests.

One more result is pending.

He said 154 people have been identified as contacts of the person – they are all isolation pending results.

Meanwhile, he said there have been “a number of calls to healthline” as to what actually constitutes a “close contact”.

Hipkins confirmed 1500 people were tested yesterday in Northland – on a testing per 1000 basis, Maori were tested the most.

But he said there is still a lot of testing going on. But warned people not to line up for testing unless they are symptomatic, or a contact of the Covid-19 positive person.

There has been a significant uptick in the number of people using the Covid-19 app, he said.

Ardern reminded people to scan in everywhere they go, and to turn on the Bluetooth function as well.

She said some people think that if Bluetooth is on, they don’t need to scan.

But that is not the case, she said, adding that people still need to scan even if Bluetooth is on.

“Scan everywhere you go.”

Vaccine information released

The first people in New Zealand to receive the vaccinations will be border and managed isolation and quarantine workforce and their close contacts.

“These brave people have been protecting our country from this global pandemic during the past year and protecting them and those who share their households is a priority for us,” Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said.

But the timeframe for the wider population remains the same – Hipkins said a vaccine will be rolled out to the general public mid-way through this year.

Ardern said the Government has been making “swift progress” towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus.

“But we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” she said.

Medsafe will be seeking advice and recommendations from the Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee (MAAC) next Tuesday, about the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, Ardern said.

A Ministerial expert advisory committee will then review Medsafe’s benefit-risk assessment of the data and, depending on feedback, Medsafe may be able to grant provisional approval as soon as the following day.

“Medsafe’s process not only ensures New Zealanders can feel confident in the vaccines we receive, it’s also been timely and means we will be ready to receive and administer vaccines as soon as Pfizer is in a position to send them,” Ardern said.

“We’ve always known a safe and effective vaccine is a vital part of our Covid-19 response for our long-term control of the virus. 2021 is Year of the Vaccine.”

If granted, the provisional approval of the vaccine will mean that Medsafe has sufficient information and assurance of both safety and effectiveness for it to allow vaccination to start – though there will be continued monitoring of the vaccine here and overseas.

“However,” Hipkins said, “if Medsafe decides next week that some additional assurances are required before it grants approval, I accept their decision and am satisfied that it’s the right decision on behalf of all of us.

“Safety is paramount and we want to be assured of this and also allow all New Zealanders the same opportunity of protection as other countries,”

First post-Cabinet briefing of the year

Ardern fronted her first post-Cabinet media conference of the year with the focus on the new Northland Covid-19 case and the Government’s response.

Ardern’s briefing comes as Covid-19 testing stations in Northland have come under enormous pressure, following a positive case detected in the area.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Health revealed a 56-year-old woman in the region had tested positive for the virus.

She had been in Europe but contracted the South African Covid variant B.1.351 from another infected person while isolating at the Pullman hotel in downtown Auckland.

Contract tracing quickly got underway but so far, none of her contacts have tested positive.

Today, the Ministry of Health revealed that 15 out of 16 close contacts have returned negative test results – one other is awaiting their test result.

A total of 157 staff from the managed isolation facility at Pullman Hotel have been tested, along with 192 guests currently in the facility. Of those, 30 still have test results to come, and all others have returned negative results.

Since news first broke, testing stations across Northland have been swamped.

Some concerned locals have spent up to 10 hours waiting in long, hot queues, for a test after the Ministry of Health revealed more than 30 locations of interest from Whangarei to Helensville visited over a nine-day spell while the woman was infectious.

Ardern will be questioned on this and why the waits for tests have been so long.

Ardern will also unveil more information about the Government’s Covid-19 vaccinations plans this afternoon.

Meanwhile, she will also face questions about National’s calls for the Government to pass temporary emergency legislation to make is easier to build houses.

“It is too hard to build houses in New Zealand,” National leader Judith Collins said in a state of the nation speech this afternoon.

“We need to make it drastically easier. With rents and house prices spiralling out of control, Kiwis can no longer afford to wait.”

Source: Read Full Article