As daily cases of Covid-19 continue to rise in Auckland, there are rumors of rebellion on the South Island and a call to part ways with the team of five million.
The separatists now have some allies in high places and leading epidemiologists back the idea of a border between the mainland and Te Ika a Māui.
Epidemiologists Professor Nick Wilson and Professor Rod Jackson said a South Island border was a no-brainer.
Speaking on the “Morning Report” today, Wilson said it would only be open to essential double-vacuum workers, such as truck drivers, and only if they had had a negative PCR test and were rechecked at the border using a rapid antigen test.
“That is what is happening at some of Australia’s interstate borders. And it has worked. I mean Tasmania has had no community cases for over 500 days. So even though we failed with the elimination in Auckland, we shouldn’t just throw up our hands and let Covid-19 spread across the country. “
Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce director Leeann Watson said the idea had merit but could gain more acceptance if it is presented with the promise of greater freedoms.
“I guess we’ve probably had a high degree of frustration in our region as to why we’re still at alert level 2, for example, so I think if the message was to close the borders and return the South Island to sea Whatever the new level 1 looks like, I think there will be very strong support for that. “
Yet further south, in Queenstown, Chamber of Commerce Director Ruth Stokes said preventing North Islanders from visiting the South Island would be a disaster for hospitality and tourism businesses.
“Taking Auckland out has brought us to our knees. You take out the rest of the little more than 4 million people who live in the North Island making it more difficult for them … it is difficult.”
Tony Blakely, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Melbourne, said strict borders had worked well in Western Australia and Tasmania and could be just as effective on the South Island.
But they couldn’t be the end goal.
He said they had to be combined with a great effort to increase vaccination rates by the day that Covid-19 finally managed to open the door.
“You have to ask yourself if you are in the South Island, what is your long-term strategy here and presumably it is not living hermetically sealed off from the rest of New Zealand and the rest of the world forever. It is power to open up and make people come and go. come on. Even with 80% double vacuum, with some measurements you can get to that [opening up] without too much risk. “
Blakely had a word of caution for the South Island, noting that places like Western Australia and Queensland, which had done well to keep the virus out, were also places where vaccination rates had remained stubbornly low.
In contrast, states where the virus had spread had high absorption and were now embracing the idea of making the vaccine mandatory.