A leading Covid-19 modeller warns there may not be long left to act if New Zealand wants to prevent the Delta outbreak from overburdening the health system.
University of Canterbury modeller Professor Michael Plank told 1News a circuit-breaker lockdown “needs to be on the table” as far as options go.
“If we’re not doing this now, we need to be asking what are the circumstances that would prompt us to do that? Are we trying to prevent hundreds of people from ending up in our hospitals? Are we trying to prevent our contact tracing system from being overwhelmed?
“Depending on what outcomes we are trying to prevent, we may not have very long left to act.”
The current R value, which describes the average number of people that an infected person transmits the virus to, is at about 1.3.
An R value above 1 indicates the outbreak is growing.
Plank said the current trend meant there was a doubling in the number of new Covid-19 cases detected every 12 to 14 days.
If that trend continued, New Zealand would see about 150 new cases a day by about early November, he said.
Based on what has happened in the Delta outbreak so far, Plank said about 10 per cent of people ended up needing hospital-level care.
“If that trend continues, and if we do end up at that 150 cases per day mark, we’d be seeing about 100 people needing to go to hospital for Covid-19 each week.
“That would start to put a very significant strain on our healthcare systems,” he said.
As for the decision to continue Alert Level 3 for parts of Waikato until at least Monday, Plank said the two mystery cases in the Waikato probably played “a big part” in the Government’s thinking.
“Obviously the concern being is that if there are those two unlinked cases that there could be a number of other cases out in the community that haven’t been found yet.”
He said health authorities would be trying to piece together a picture of where the cases had been.
“It’s better to have a few more days in Level 3 than to risk yo-yo-ing up and down the alert levels or to end up like Auckland with a large and growing outbreak.”