Saturday, December 4

Easing Auckland restrictions is a very risky strategy – public health expert

A public health expert is frustrated that the government relaxed its alert level restrictions in Auckland, saying the country’s vaccination rate did not justify it.

Central Auckland on Wednesday August 25, 2021 on the eighth day of a Covid-19 lockdown.

Photo: RNZ / John Edens

Now, a case has spread to Northland, prompting Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to hold an unexpected briefing last night to announce that the region would go to alert level 3 starting at midnight.

The new restrictions will remain in effect until 11:59 pm on Tuesday and will be reviewed in the Cabinet on Monday.

University of Otago Senior Lecturer Lesley Gray said it was too early for the government to ease some restrictions earlier this week.

“I have been really frustrated this week, with the government’s decision on Monday to somehow move towards a relaxed level 3 in the Auckland region.

“Loosening alert levels at a time when, frankly, we don’t have high enough vaccination rates, it seems like a very risky strategy.”

He was concerned that undetected community cases would continue to leak across the border.

“I’m really worried right now, I think the next seven to 10 days will be very revealing.

“I am concerned that we will see spread, we are already seeing spread to the north, I think we will see spread to the south and we as a population should not be prepared to accept this. We have done very well in the last 18 to 20 years.” months.”

He said the government’s messages on easing restrictions had been confusing.

“This week has been quite confusing for a lot of people … I urge communities, particularly in areas with lower vaccination rates, whatever the reason for those low vaccination rates, I would tell everyone, the population, that we just got behave like we’re still level 4.

“The ongoing impact and potential consequences for our most vulnerable communities at this time remain dire, as Delta was introduced to Northland at a time when restrictions were already easing in Auckland and vaccination rates needed to be higher. to keep everyone protected. “

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker agreed to say Control the government has not been clear about what the next steps will be as the country abandons the phase-out strategy.

“This week has been pretty poor in terms of clarity and communication, so I think the government really has to decide where we are going.”

He said one option is a regional approach which would mean that a suppression policy could be used in Auckland, while the rest of the country and particularly the South Island could continue to strive to eliminate the virus.

Dianne Sika-Paotonu, director of University of Otago Wellington Pacific Office immunologist Dianne Sika-Paotonu, said the introduction of Delta in Northland at a time when restrictions were easing in Auckland and rates Higher vaccination rates have serious consequences for vulnerable communities.

He said putting Northland at alert level 3 along with “accelerated testing and vaccination efforts” will help prevent Covid-19 from settling in the area.

“Getting vaccinated demonstrates our commitment to staying safe, and this includes the most vulnerable. Get vaccinated, get tested, follow the alert level rules, and most of all, reach out and help others do the same.”

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