As Wednesday’s announcement on the reopening date of Auckland to the rest of the country looms, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says talks are ongoing with leaders in Northland.
At 82 per cent, Northland DHB has the lowest rate of people with a first dose of the Covid vaccine in the country.
As Auckland edges closer to having its borders reopened after three months in lockdown, concerns have been raised about what would happen if and when people travel to regions with lower vaccination rates.
Māori health researcher and adviser Dr Rawiri Taonui told Breakfast today the Government needs to wait for vaccinations to ramp up before moving down levels.
"The moves the Government has made have all pre-empted surges in Māori cases, so when Auckland went to Level 3 there was a surge in Māori cases - 42 days in a row now highest cases every day. Last week Auckland went to 3.2 (Level 3, Step 2) and Northland to 2, in the four days since there's been more than 100 Māori cases a day, more than 50 per cent of all new cases announced for the first time.
"Moving Waikato to Level 2 when you've got cases in MidCentral, Lakes, Taranaki, all of which are DHBs with very low Māori vaccination rates is not wise," he said.
He said modelling suggested there could be another 6000 Māori Covid cases by Christmas.
With regards to Northland, Ardern told media today they were continuing to work hard to add extra layers of protection in new systems of containing Covid’s spread.
The Government is gathering advice on whether it should move the country to the traffic light system before the whole country has hit a 90 per cent vaccination level.
The Ministry of Health believes it will allow for greater protection, but Ardern said they were considering the views of those concerned about the health of their people.
“We have continued to talk to leaders in Northland about how we can continue to support and help protect the population but also that critical need for businesses to still be able to access New Zealanders moving around over summer,” she said.
“Our job is to make sure we are working hard to protect people and people from Northland can come and go and there will be people wanting to go both ways to visit family and friends.”
There are 32 active Covid cases in Northland.
National’s Judith Collins said it was hard to say exactly what should happen about the Northland border while vaccination certificates weren’t in place.
“Let’s see what happens with those vaccination rates in Northland.
“I know Dr Shane Reti has been in Northland vaccinating for about four weeks, enormous numbers of people, but the issue is also there’s going to be a problem for the Government on this.
“Do I agree with them on keeping a hard border, I think we need to see what happens on it. I do know this – Aucklanders have had a guts full of this Government, they’ve had enough, and they want to be able to have their freedom.”