New Zealand needs to “clean up” its Covid-19 rules to give it the best chance against the Delta variant of Covid-19, an expert says.
Dr Joel Rindelaub, a Research Fellow at the Auckland University’s School of Chemical Sciences, had been warning for months about the risk that airborne respiratory droplets posed in spreading Covid-19.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health revealed that in July, Covid-19 was spread in Auckland's Jet Park quarantine facility because room doors were opened simultaneously. The cases involved had the Delta variant.
Rindelaub told Breakfast the situation at the Jet Park “tells us just a few seconds of contact with the Delta virus is enough to transmit it”, and that Delta “doesn’t mess around”.
“It is no surprise that we are seeing more Delta cases pop up,” he said.
“The Dirty Delta is in town, so we need to clean up our act.”
He is advocating for mandated masking indoors whenever alert levels increase.
This was because whenever people coughed, sneezed, or even spoke, they created droplets in the air that could hold the virus, he said.
“Mask on for sure, we need to do that along with physical distancing.”
For places with low ventilation, like indoors, Rindelaub warned virus particles could be hanging in the air for hours.
He said that meant people needed to stay, at a minimum, two metres away from each other.
“Open a window and get some sort of ventilation so there is clean and fresh air,” Rindelaub added.
Rindelaub said some experts estimated Delta’s higher viral load could mean there were 1000 times more virus particles that could be expelled at once, compared to other variants.
“It’s going to wreak havoc in the community if we don’t take it seriously.”
He also urged Kiwis to learn from other countries.
Leading Australian epidemiologist pleads with Kiwis: ‘Stay home.’
One country New Zealand should learn a lesson from was Australia, a leading epidemiologist told Breakfast.
University of New South Wales’ Professor Mary-Luoise McLaws said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s “hard and early” approach to Delta was the correct one.
“I just wish that we had some of the lessons we could have learnt from New Zealand. Your Prime Minister is absolutely spot on. We had all the warnings [in Australia], but we did not seem to heed them.”
McLaws said New South Wales waited over a week before implementing strict lockdown, and by that point, there was about 50 cases.
While that didn’t seem like a lot, the Delta variant spread fast, she said.
There are now more than 8000 Covid-19 cases in New South Wales. This number was made worse by people who weren’t following lockdown rules, McLaws said.
“I would please ask New Zealanders to stay home. Do not break any rules. Do not visit family. This is a highly-contagious virus.”
She also encouraged people to get at least one dose of the vaccine at the very least to prevent serious infection.
McLaws said the Delta Covid-19 variant was up to 60 per cent more infectious than the Alpha variant, and its incubation period was as little as two days. She said that meant it was easy for people to go about their lives as normal and pass on the virus without realising they felt sick.