Growing Covid numbers will 'push outbreak into Christmas', Hendy fears

Source: 1News

Aucklanders' Christmas holidays might be a bit grim this year if the Government's strategy doesn't curb Covid-19 cases over the coming months. 

Covid-19 Modeller Professor Shaun Hendy told Breakfast that the city's case numbers during the outbreak have continued to trend upwards despite Level 3 restrictions.

He noted that rising numbers of unlinked cases during the outbreak have proven difficult for contact tracing, poking holes in one of the country's defences in preventing further spread. 

There's further fear that New Zealand's health system may be overwhelmed if Covid-19 cases increase rapidly if unlinked cases can't be traced. 

"That's the concern, that some of the other interventions that we've been relying on really stop working as well as they have been, so the case numbers could accelerate," Hendy said.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 11:  Pohutukawa trees in bloom on Auckland's waterfront on December 11, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. The pohutukawa tree and its crimson flowers have become an established part of the New Zealand Christmas tradition. The iconic Kiwi Christmas tree often features on greeting cards and in poems and songs.  (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Hendy's modelling suggests that it may be a few weeks into November before Auckland sees the end of current lockdown restrictions or even longer if vaccination rates aren't high enough. 

"If we see this more rapid growth and cases getting way ahead of our contact tracers, this is really going to push this outbreak into the Christmas period unfortunately." 

If Level 3 does stretch to December, Hendy said the Government may consider loosening restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated, especially in terms of Christmas gatherings. 

"I'm hopeful but it will depend on those case numbers, what we observe over the next couple of weeks. It also depends on what strategies the Government rolls out."

Speaking on Breakfast on Tuesday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she believes Auckland's current lockdown restrictions won't be in place at Christmas.

On Monday Auckland's current Alert Level 3 lockdown was extended by another two weeks.

By the next review of restrictions, the city will have been operating in lockdown for 76 days.