Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker has “no doubt” Covid-19 cases will surge when Auckland’s border opens on December 15, so he’s urging Aucklanders to take responsibility to limit virus spread when travelling over summer.
The city has been in Alert Level 4 or Level 3 since the day after the first Delta Covid-19 case was announced in this outbreak on August 17.
But from December 15, anyone in Aotearoa who has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or tested 72-hours before departure will be able to reconnect with the rest of New Zealand in time for Christmas and summer, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday.
These requirements will be in place for the core summer period of December 15 to January 17.
When asked if the easing of restrictions over that period will see a surge in virus cases, Baker told Breakfast host John Campbell he had "no doubt" it would.
"We've moved from the absolutes of the elimination approach, now to everything is a trade off from now on, just like the traffic light system - it's saying to people 'if you want to participate in normal social activities, basically you need to be vaccinated, particularly indoors'."
That means, Baker said, that people need to take responsibility themselves this summer and not be complacent with the virus.
"I think these announcements are a strong message to all of us, and particularly everyone in Auckland, that we are all in this together and that there's a lot more personal responsibility with how we manage this virus," he said.
"I fully understand that everyone in Auckland want to get out of Auckland, want to visit family and friends, and I think the big responsibility now is not to take the virus with you when you're visiting people.
"There are obvious ways that people can do that and that is get vaccinated and in addition get tested, perhaps do both, particularly if you have children in your household because otherwise the virus will go all over the country if people don't work very hard to prevent that happening."
Baker said the "ultimate act of kindness" and the gift people should give to loved ones this Christmas is to be vaccinated and follow these safety measures.
"Vaccination works. We've effectively got two more vaccination days to Christmas because if you get your first dose this week you've got three weeks to get your next dose and then two weeks before you get maximum protection, so now is the time to do that," he said.
But as 20 per cent of current Covid-19 cases are in children under 12 who cannot get the jab, Baker said as parents head along to get the jab they should take children for a test while doing so to have "another form of protection".
“The best thing we can do, given this is what’s going to happen, is that Aucklanders take responsibility and not only about vaccinating themselves, but having that conversation with people they’re visiting.”