Pacific health expert wants Auckland alert level to stay put

Source: 1News

Dr Colin Tukuitonga of the Pacific Expert Advisory Group says Auckland should remain at its current alert level to allow a "week to prepare" for the shift to the new traffic light system.

His comments come as Aucklanders will find out when they might be able to eat at a restaurant or get a haircut, as Cabinet review's the city's alert level on Monday.

Auckland has been in lockdown for more than 90 days following the first community Covid-19 Delta case in New Zealand in mid-August.

It comes as Auckland City District Health Board reached the target 90 per cent full vaccination rate, with Auckland's two other DHBs - Waitematā and Counties Manukau - yet to reach the milestone.

The Government will announce its alert level decision at 4pm. The decision will be broadcast live on TVNZ1, 1news.co.nz and the 1News Facebook page.

When asked what he'd like to see from the Government's announcement, Tukuitonga told Breakfast on Monday morning it would be for Auckland to "stay where we are, keep the current step".

"We go to the traffic light system in about a week anyway and to me it makes sense to stay where we are, minimise the risks and use the week to prepare, inform, educate individuals once again about what the traffic light system means," he said.

"I say this because whilst the number of cases haven't exploded out of control, they have spread around the whole North Island as you can see, and fortunately for Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) the numbers have stayed pretty much under 200 (a day), vaccination rates are improving, have improved, really good to see that happening - and so putting that all together it would make sense to stay where we are."

A move to Level 3 Step 3 would mean hospitality venues, like cafes, bars, and restaurants, can reopen with a limit of 50 people.

As well, event facilities likes cinemas, casinos, and theatres can open with a limit of 50 people in a defined space, wearing face coverings with two-metre physical distancing in place.

Close contact businesses, like hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons, can reopen, with workers wearing face coverings.

And social gatherings, indoors and outdoors, can take place with a limit of 50 people in a defined space.

Those limitations are similar to the Red setting on the traffic light system, but without vaccine passes in use.

Tukuitonga said the danger of a move to Level 3 Step 3 was "more people doing more things", particularly indoors.

"So more activities being permitted and more people allowed to get together, that's always a recipe for more transmission," he said.

"So that's the main thing with 3.3 - you do in fact increase the risk of further spread both within Auckland but also beyond the places where the cases are reported from now."