Epidemiologist Michael Baker has issued a caution ahead of Auckland dropping down into Alert Level 3 late Tuesday night.
It comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland will be at Level 3 for at least two weeks, with the settings next reviewed on October 4.
Following the announcement, Baker called the move a “calculated risk”.
He said while Alert Level 4 is very good at stamping out the Delta variant, Alert Level 3 will be “tougher”.
He said the numbers have plateaued over the past several weeks but the numbers “to really focus on” are the unexpected cases that have cropped up over that time.
“We are still seeing those cases every day,” he said, speaking of the recent case of the remand prisoner who tested positive for the virus after being released on bail.
“I think it is really in the hands of Aucklanders now,” Baker said, warning those living in the city not to treat Level 3 like level 2.
He acknowledged Aucklanders had been “cooped up for five weeks, but actually, you have to treat it like it’s still Alert Level 4 with a few more freedoms.”
He said the benefits of stamping out the virus “are so great for Auckland and the whole country, because if we do that the whole country will eventually move down to Alert Level 2 and maybe then a bit further”.
Baker said New Zealand does not want to end up in the same place as Victoria or NSW. He says all it takes “is one case” for the Delta virus to reach exponential levels.