Saturday, December 4

New Zealand could spend most of 2022 on the red level: Covid-19 modeler Shaun Hendy

Reaching the 90 percent target could still mean spending around three-quarters of next year at the ‘Red’ light, but vaccinating children would help, says Covid-19 modeler Shaun Hendy.

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Covid-19 modeler Shaun Hendy.
Photo: Shaun hendy

Auckland DHBs are growing closer and closer to reaching 90 percent double vaccinations, which would trigger a shift in the region from alert levels to the new traffic light system.

That would mean companies could open their doors to customers who could show proof of vaccination, but gather limits of just 10 people for those who choose not to.

Professor Hendy said that operating under the red configuration would mean more freedoms for Auckland, but it would not be a return to “normal life”.

“It will take some getting used to. We are not going to go back to that kind of level 1 life that we have enjoyed for most of 2020 and 2021,” he said.

It would also mean accepting that Covid-19 would circulate in the community for some time.

“The traffic light system is designed to be a long-term management strategy, less about reacting to a lockdown when we have an outbreak and more about managing the number of cases,” he said, “tolerating a certain presence in the community without allowing it really sucks up, you know, all the available sanitary capacity. “

“We may find ourselves spending, you know, three-quarters of next year on red, and maybe a quarter on green or orange. That’s because of our current vaccine targets, which are 90 percent of the seniors. 12 years old “.

However, if vaccines were approved for children ages 5 to 11, that could make a big difference.

“That could lead us, for example, to spend 50 percent of our time in the red light zone, with less impact on education.”

He expected the number of cases to peak at 200 to 300 cases per day, sometime this month or in December.

While an outbreak of the scale seen in Victoria and New South Wales with thousands of cases a day is unlikely, the number of cases could still spiral out of control and overwhelm the hospital system, he said.

“There is still the possibility that we can reach 400 to 500 new cases a day. That would put a real strain on our healthcare system.

“I think that even the next spike of 200 to 300 cases per day that we believe will likely put pressure on the system. It will certainly fill the capacity that we have in Auckland to deal with Covid.”

“If the outbreak spreads to other parts of the country that have lower vaccination rates within Auckland and perhaps less capacity for medical care, that could be quite devastating for those regions as well.”

The government has already said that Auckland will move to alert level 3 step 2 next Tuesday evening, and Professor Hendy warned earlier this week that easing of restrictions was too early and could risk persisting numbers. high cases over the next year.

He repeated that concern.

“We will be very confident in the work that retailers can do to make sure there are no infections,” he said. “It’s a bit unknown and it will just take a few retailers to not really … manage that process well to expand further.”

He said the number of cases could already have dropped if the government had maintained stricter measures.

“We won’t see the full effects of that for a week or two after we move on to the next step. Hopefully that doesn’t lead to an increase in cases or postpone that date, where we see cases increase. It has the potential to do so. that though. “

“As we have been vaccinated more, they have been relaxing at the same time and that is why we have not seen the number of cases decrease.”

He said that while the vaccines helped a lot, the reality was that they couldn’t prevent the spread of the Delta variant on their own and next year would be a challenge.

“We have been protected relative to other parts of the world. We have not spent as much time locked up as people in Melbourne and Victoria say and we have not seen the high death rates that they have there and we certainly have not.” I have seen the deaths they have in Europe and the United States.

“We’re seeing countries that have really tried to get back to normal and they just haven’t. In the UK they’re seeing, you know, pretty high death rates, very high infection figures right now, maybe 2 percent. of the population currently has Delta.

“In New Zealand, that would translate to 20 to 30 deaths per day, which would be serious and significant, so with delta you can’t really get back to normal without putting a lot of people at risk and really overwhelming your healthcare system.” .

Get the big picture with the Focus on Politics podcast. Airs on RNZ National Fridays after 6.30pm. M. And on Saturdays at 5.10 p.m. M., and is available online starting at 10 a.m. M. Saturday.

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