Dropping Auckland to Level 3 'a calculated risk' - Covid-19 modeller

Source: 1News

Covid-19 experts are urging Aucklanders not to take the shift down to Covid-19 Alert Level 3 as a sign to become complacent.

It comes as the city prepares to drop down from Level 4 from 11.59pm on Tuesday after nearly five weeks under the strictest lockdown conditions. 

Covid-19 modeller, Professor Michael Plank, told Breakfast it was a "tough call" by the Government to move down alert levels. 

He says doing so does open the community up to a higher risk, which could result in more Covid-19 cases appearing.

"I think it's a calculated risk by the Government; although the majority of the outbreak has been well-controlled and most of the cases we're seeing are in household contacts, there is still some spread between households that's proving difficult to stamp out," he said. 

"It's a tough call; five weeks is a long time to be stuck in lockdown, and people are tired, but it's really, really important that people don't take this as a signal that the danger has passed." 

Plank added that the Delta variant continued to circulate through the community even under strict Level 4 protocols because people are visiting other households when they shouldn't be. 

"It's really important that people stick to their bubbles because that's how we're going to stay on top of this outbreak." 

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 18: People are tested at a pop up Covid 19 testing station in Woodall Park carpark in Narrowneck, Devonport as Auckland wakes to level four lockdown and four more cases on August 18, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. The first reported case of the Covid Delta variant is a Devonport local. Level 4 lockdown restrictions have come into effect across New Zealand for the next three days, while Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula will remain in lockdown for seven days after a positive COVID-19 case was confirmed in the community in Auckland on Tuesday. The positive case traveled to Coromandel over the weekend and the source of the infection is still unknown. New Zealand health officials are also yet to confirm whether it is the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus. Under COVID-19 Alert Level 4 measures, people are instructed to stay at home in their bubble other than for essential reasons, with travel severely limited. All non-essential businesses are closed, including bars, restaurants, cinemas and playgrounds. All indoor and outdoor events are banned, while schools have switched to online learning. Essential services remain open, including supermarkets and pharmacies. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Māori health researcher Professor Sue Crengle agreed that dropping alert levels came with a calculated risk which the Government needs to make sure doesn't spin out of control.

She told Breakfast that New South Wales had been in a similar situation where they lowered restrictions as cases came down, but more interactions between people resulted in Covid-19 cases soaring. 

"We think that there's a risk that the virus will get away on us, and we'll find ourselves in a similar situation to NSW," she said. 

Crengle said it was particularly important to keep the Delta outbreak under control to prevent flare-ups among vulnerable communities. 

She noted that Māori, in particular, are at a higher risk of catching the virus due to many working in frontline industries where they can't stay at home, as well as many Māori having underlying health conditions. 

Professor Michael Plank spoke to Breakfast the day after the alert level announcement.

However, with vaccination uptake among Māori lagging behind the rest of the population, she says it's important to prevent outbreaks hitting those most at risk.