Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Chris Hipkins, Mike Hosking clash over NZ’s return to zero cases

Chris Hipkins and Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking have clashed over the Government’s pandemic response strategy, with the minister insisting he believes the country can get back to zero Covid cases.

In an-times testy interview, Hipkins said the Government would still use every tool to try and get the number of cases back to zero.

This prompted Hosking to declare that the Government’s elimination strategy was a waste of time.

Undeterred, Hipkins said that yesterday’s spike up to 45 cases would likely have happened whether Auckland was in level 3 or 4.

As for 12 of those cases being unlinked yesterday, Hipkins said that number had now dropped to six. The other six were still under investigation.

He said he expected a smaller number of Covid cases today asonly a “small amount” were identified yesterday afternoon so it would depend what was thrown up overnight.

“I take some comfort from the fact that the majority of yesterday’s cases were linked but a big number is still a big number.”

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He accepted hundreds and hundreds of people were back at work in level 3 but that had not caused the sub clusters.

“The shift from level 4 to level 3 hasn’t made a huge difference in terms ofthe contact they’ve had.

“Even if they were at level 4 it doesn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t have had the big day we got yesterday.”

Hosking told Hipkins the number of cases yesterday proved that Government’s elimination strategy was a waste of time, but Hipkins disagreed.

“We still are aiming for getting back down to zero. We’re certainly not waving a white flag in the way that it would make the situation worse.

“The best shot for New Zealanders is to get back down to zero.”

As for how long Auckland had to remain at level 3, Hipkins said if Kiwis wanted to continue to have freedom, they needed fewer Covid cases and a higher vaccination rate.

Singapore was now reimposing restrictions, and the UK’s summer of freedom will likely end soon with almost all modelling showing it would end up back in a lockdown.

He said New Zealand had different challenges, and the Government was not willing to live with a large number of active cases in the community.

The higher the vaccination rate, the less likely it would be that level four restrictions would be imposed.

Hipkins ruled out a more direct approach about testing and relied on goodwill and it “only works if people are willing to cooperate”.

Asked about gangs and the lack of cooperation in Clover Park yesterday – 100 houses, four streets and only nine people participating – Hipkins said they wouldn’t rule out a more “direct” approach about testing.

“We do rely a lot on goodwill. Contact tracing and testing and only works if people are willing to cooperate.”

Hipkins also said the contact tracers had been getting good cooperation from gangs to work out their movements.

As for the slowed rate of jabs, he said the Government knew it would get to the point where demand would flip from first doses to second doses: “First doses are lower than we need them to be if we’re going to get them up to those higher rates of vaccination.”

The age cohort causing the slowdown were those aged under 35, he said.

As for incentives, Hipkins said some were out there already and he would not rule out nationwide incentives.

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