Protests against Covid-19 measures, firefighters given vaccine mandate, 125 new cases

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Thousands of protesters turned up at Parliament today, demanding an end to Covid restrictions, while another group blocked Auckland’s northern boundary this morning. Meanwhile, 125 new cases were reported and experts weigh in on the traffic light system. Here is a summary of today’s Covid-19 developments.

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Photo: RNZ

Protesters were out in force today at various locations throughout the country. About 50 protesters blocked the northern side of Auckland’s northern boundary this morning for more than one hour, bringing traffic to a halt.

One bit a police officer, and police had to tow a number of vehicles out of the way, and physically move protesters off the road.

Police at the scene of protest on the northern iside of Auckland's northern boundary.

Police at the scene of protest on the northern iside of Auckland’s northern boundary Photo: Te Rūnanga ō Ngāti Whātua

Hours later, in Wellington, thousands of protesters gathered in Civic Square, then marched their way to Parliament. There, they hurled abuse at media and police, threw tennis balls and water at them, while holding flags and signs with messages against lockdown, vaccination, the media and government.

Some tried to jump the railings, and security was ramped up.

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard said security had never been so tight in his more-than-30 years at Parliament.

They claimed an array of things like being segregated and the government having “trampled on the rights of New Zealanders”.

Some espoused misinformation, including about vaccines, while others said they wanted New Zealand to live with the virus and not be concerned about the risks.

Other people were upset about losing their jobs because they would not get vaccinated. Others just wanted to be back with family in Auckland.

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Thousands of people gathered at Parliament today, calling for an end to Covid restrictions Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

New community cases in Auckland, Waikato and Northland

There were 125 new community reported today – 117 in Auckland, two in Waikato and six in Northland. Fifty-eight of today’s cases are yet to be linked. There were also three new cases at the border.

There are 79 cases in hospital, down from 81 yesterday, with nine in HCU or ICU.

Of the hospitalised cases, 25 are in North Shore Hospital, one in Waitākere, 25 in Middlemore and 28 in Auckland City.

To date, 89 percent of New Zealanders have had their first dose and 79 percent are fully vaccinated.

There were 21,192 first and second Covid-19 vaccine doses administered yesterday – 5103 first doses and 16,089 second doses.

Meanwhile, as reported yesterday, 20 residents and four staff members of Edmonton Meadows Care Home in Henderson have tested positive for Covid-19. Seven of the Covid-19 positive residents remain in appropriate ward-level care at Auckland  hospitals.

Vaccine certificates next week

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins expects people will be able to get vaccine certificates late next week.

Vaccinated people will need the pass in order to access many businesses and events when the country moves to the traffic-light framework.

Hipkins said the certificates were going through their final trials this week.

He will provide an update on them tomorrow.

Prime Minister to visit Auckland

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Auckland tomorrow, on the first day the region moves to level 3, step 2.

Ardern has been under pressure to visit the city, but said she was limited by rules set by Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard.

The rules were relaxed last week, with Ardern saying that “felt like then an opportunity where I was able to do both, get to Auckland, talk with business representatives, be able to see some of the work our frontline health workers are doing and still be able to be here [in Wellington].”

She is expected to meet with workers, business people and frontline health workers on her visit to Auckland tomorrow, but is not expected to be out and about in public.

In a statement, ACT leader David Seymour said Ardern should visit hairdressers and hospitality businesses “if she really wanted to understand Aucklanders’ situation”.

Experts weigh in on move to traffic light system

Ardern said yesterday she expected Auckland will move to the Covid-19 Protection Framework – also known as the traffic light system – in just three weeks, once the city’s eligible population is 90 percent fully vaccinated.

But University of Canterbury professor Michael Plank said it was too risky to move to the new system while cases rise sharply.

Retail stores can reopen in the city tomorrow and Plank said that could see case numbers rise as high as 500 per day around the beginning of December.

However, Australian epidemiologist Melbourne University professor Tony Blakely said the high number of people in the city with at least one jab should encourage health officials to ease restrictions and take advantage of the community’s “peak immunity”.

Blakely’s views were based on the experiences New South Wales and Victoria had had while negotiating the lifting of restrictions there.

Firefighters given vaccine mandate

Firefighters were told 11 days ago they must receive their first Covid-19 vaccination by next week, or won’t be able to work.

This has raised concerns about what emergency coverage will look like when their first vaccine deadline passes on Monday.

Volunteers make up four fifths of Fire and Emergency’s (FENZ) 13,000 operational and community workers and some staff are concerned about the future of smaller rural stations if firefighters refuse to get vaccinated.

Other firefighters are frustrated that no proof of inoculation will be required as they are only being asked to make a declaration about their vaccination status.

FENZ said in a statement many staff must be vaccinated to undertake their roles as they work alongside medical practitioners and go into schools to provide education and respond to emergencies.

Police did not respond to questions about whether the mandate for firefighters would also apply to police, but said it was in discussions with the government about mandatory vaccination requirements.

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