Thursday, December 9

Covid-19: Delta Outbreak Could Delay New Zealand Reopening Months Back, Expert Says

Plans to reconnect New Zealand with the rest of the world will be delayed, potentially for months, by the current outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta variant in the country.

International arrivals airport sign

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University of Otago epidemiologist professor Michael Baker said Morning report That was partly due to Aotearoa’s limited ability to launch new initiatives, but there were multiple reasons why the reopening would be delayed.

“The most obvious is exactly what we’ve been talking about, that our ability to launch new initiatives is limited,” Baker said.

“It’s a finite capability, and much of it is now being dealt with with this … battle against this outbreak, so it will probably have taken a couple of months of effort by the time it’s finished, so the plans will inevitably be scrapped. complex to reconnect with other countries to a greater extent.

“That will involve, you know, a non-quarantine travel test, which in itself will be reasonably complex, but the other big change, of course, is that I think all the countries that we are going to connect with more now have the variant Delta – is absolutely dominant.

“It’s taken over the world, essentially, so it makes it that much more difficult to do this.”

The response to the current outbreak had brought the system to full capacity, he said.

Despite that, Auckland and frontline workers were doing an exceptional job and the outlook was positive.

As for essential workers, who have been given another week to provide proof that they have undergone a Covid-19 test and can cross the Auckland line, Baker said the delay was a “moderate gap in our defenses “.

“Obviously at the moment Auckland is still under very tight controls and the rest of the country is not, so you could have a scenario where an essential worker in Auckland, and is either behind or at higher risk because they are traveling. by the city”. , they have more contacts and could be infected with this virus, could cross the border or travel across the country.

“And of course at level 2 they could go somewhere to eat, they wouldn’t have to put on the mask, they could infect other people in that indoor environment, so that’s the worst case.

“I don’t think it’s a high probability, but it’s a weakness that we should have been able to stop and then close that gap.”

“I think the only option is to advise this workforce that they need to carry Alert Level 4 with them, which means behaving very differently when visiting other corners of New Zealand and that means not going indoors, potentially eating at your facilities “. rooms, taking other precautions, wearing masks at all times.

As for the debate over rapid tests for Covid-19, Baker said saliva testing was just another way to get a sample for PCR testing.

“It doesn’t really make a big difference. I mean it’s more convenient, especially for people who have been tested regularly, so it’s a great choice for front-line workers in general, and so on. .. in this example, I don’t think it was the critical measure …

“So whether it’s a nasopharyngeal swab or a saliva test, it still requires the same logistics of getting people to a testing site.”

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