Easing Auckland restrictions could endanger health system - Hendy

Source: 1News

Auckland should not move to the second step of its Alert Level 3 roadmap this week, leading Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy warns.

The Government is expected to make a decision on Monday around whether the country's largest city should move to step two.

If approved, it would allow retail to open, as well as libraries, pools and zoos. Outdoor catch ups, funerals, tangi and weddings would also have a limit increase to 25 people.

But taking this step while case numbers were continuing to rise and the transmission rate remained above one could see daily case numbers soon rise as high as 500, Hendy told 1News.

"We wouldn't see the effect immediately, but after a couple of weeks we'd see the R number head up to 1.5 - 1.6 and that would quickly push case numbers up and we would see 200-300, maybe even 500 cases a day, which would put extreme pressure on our public health system," Hendy said.

"We expect case numbers to continue to rise. The increase in vaccinations should see the number go down or at least see a levelling off. We could see as high as 200-300 cases a day by mid-November and then levelling off through the summer.

The Auckland skyline

"I think we have to stay where we are for the time being. You really can't relax things until you get that r number down below one.

"We're just not there yet. We may get there in November, in which case we can start thinking about relaxation. But while our R number is still above one we're just going to push case numbers even higher."

Hendy said Auckland could handle around 100 cases in hospital at any one time, and if case numbers continue to rise significantly, that limit could be breached.

There are currently 55 cases being cared for in Auckland hospitals (as well as one in the Waikato), after 143 new cases were recorded on Sunday, down slightly on the record-breaking number of 160 on Saturday.

In terms of vaccinations, Hendy was optimistic, believing Auckland could be able to reach the 90 per cent threshold by early December.