Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker has criticised the Government’s new lockdown exit strategy, saying that it isn’t robust enough to cope with the ongoing threat posed by Covid-19.
The plan, which was announced on Friday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, relies on a traffic light system to manage case numbers.
Under it, the country will shift between levels depending on a range of factors including vaccination coverage; capacity of the health system; testing; contact tracing; and Covid transmission.
For most of the country, the system is due to kick in when all DHBs reach the target of 90 per cent fully vaccinated people.
However, Auckland will head to the red level as soon as its DHBs have all reached the 90 per cent mark.
Baker believes there are two main problems with the new system.
“It doesn’t have enough levels in it and it doesn’t include a level for if we get a severe outbreak needing the equivalent of a lockdown,” he said.
“Why have we gone to a system that gives us so few options for managing a really complex outbreak that will be very variable around the country?”
Instead of the new framework, Baker has suggested that the current level system be modified to make it fit for purpose.
“It's based on a lot of good science, it's based on modelling, we know it works, it's understood - we could have just simply stuck with that.”
He says it’s unclear how schools fit into the plan and has questioned the Prime Minister’s assertion that having 90 per cent of the population vaccinated will protect the rest.
“With a virus that is this transmissible - if you have a huge cohort of the country unvaccinated, that is everyone under the age of 12 - plus you also have low coverage in Māori and Pasifika, we are going to see this virus spread very rapidly in those populations.”
Baker says he believes the current system would also be better to help cope with what he predicts will be an intense season of flu and other respiratory illnesses next winter.