'Very low' chance Auckland moves to Level 3 next week, says modeller

Source: 1News

With most of New Zealand at Alert Level 2, our biggest city remains firmly locked down - and an expert says it is likely to remain that way for at least another week.

Cabinet is set to make a decision on Monday about a potential level change for Auckland but it comes after a spike in community cases on Saturday and news that three people tested positive for the virus after visiting Middlemore Hospital.

Modeller Rodney Jones from Wigram Capital Advisors, who has been tracking outbreaks since the start of the pandemic and advising the Government on the trajectory of infections, spoke to Q+A about why Saturday's updates were bad news for the City of Sails.

"Yesterday was a tough day," Jones said on Sunday morning.

"I was gutted to see those numbers so close to decision day and then the news overnight of those unlinked infections at Middlemore... it's a tough challenge ahead of us."

Jones said it was a "very low" chance Auckland would move out of Level 4 this coming week and chances weren't much better for the following week either.

"We really hope we have a much better week and by [next Sunday] we're looking at low, single-digit cases but the difficulty is we have these consistent background cases that we don't know where they've come from."

The Auckland Harbour Bridge usually sees about 170,000 vehicles each day, but during lockdown there's only a trickle of “essential” workers.

Eight additional unlinked cases were announced in Sunday's Covid-19 update, bringing the total to 34, which Jones said is a concerning number.

"The concern is that in the background, there's a level of infection that we can't get our arms around.

"We've seen this overseas, we're seeing it going in Canberra and ACT where they continue to have these unexplained cases and that's the challenge and concern with Delta."

Jones said the risk of "non-zero" where New Zealand can't stamp out Covid-19 like it has in the past is therefore a possibility.

"We hope it doesn't happen, elimination has been successful for New Zealand, but Delta just behaves in ways where it's hard to model because you seem to get these background events and background infections that each country has struggled with."

Auckland's alert level status will be announced on Monday afternoon after a meeting of Cabinet.