Saturday, November 27

A ‘low trust’ approach needs to be taken for workers crossing Auckland’s borders, says Des Gorman

A medical expert says that insufficient security precautions are being taken with those crossing the border south of Auckland and that it should operate as a “low-trust environment”.

A police checkpoint in Mercer, near the Auckland-Waikato border.

A police checkpoint in Mercer, near the Auckland-Waikato border, on September 1.
Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Twenty-three thousand people with exemptions left the city’s Covid-19 alert level 4 blockade yesterday.

While police reported few problems, Auckland University Professor Emeritus of Medicine Des Gorman said Morning report more sanitary precautions were needed.

“We are dealing with a very infectious virus and I do not think it is an environment where we should assume that a trucker will go from point A to point B and will not call to see someone or will not stop on the side of the road, not interact with people, I mean, what we’ve done is we’ve paid the price for having a high-trust environment, “Gorman said.

“I think we must have a low-trust environment.”

Gorman said vaccination should be required of all people crossing the border.

“I think they need to wear masks, and not just masks, if you walk around and look at the way people wear masks, I think more than half wear them the wrong way.

“I think they need tight-fitting N-95 masks, and I would go further. I think if you look at the way our testing and tracking capabilities were exceeded on the first day of this outbreak, we need to take action around testing and tracking essential workers and people crossing the border.

“My recommendation would be to do daily tests based on saliva, whether rapid antigen or PCR is preferable … we should do it every day.

“The other thing in terms of connectivity: we have phone technology that allows us to track people in real time, we should be using it.

“Yeah, look, I think we have to live in a low-trust environment. I … actually I think we need to know exactly where they are and when they are, and so I think we should use continuous phone monitoring.

“Daily testing is a very sensible thing to do because it allows you to quickly close any outbreaks … Bluetooth has not worked as you know … look, telcos can already provide continuous monitoring of their people through their phones. Everything what is required is the contact of the employers for the telecommunications companies and, in fact, the people agree “.

Gorman acknowledged that privacy issues had to be considered, but said that “we are going to have some very difficult conversations going forward because, in fact, there will be a whole series of measures that we will have to talk about if we want to have the mobility that we want.

“I think we have not yet understood the fact that mobility will come with some concessions and those concessions will be related to monitoring, testing and surveillance.

“My concern is this. We entered this outbreak. We had eight months to prepare. We were not prepared.

“Right now we have a 4v3 limit, which is not … a big concern, but the time to put the systems in place … is right now, not after it has happened.

“We have been too reactive for the last 18 months.”

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