Coronavirus: Safe for New Zealand to move down COVID-19 alert levels - modelling expert Shaun Hendy

The AM Show 21/09/2020

This article is courtesy of NewsHub reporter Mark Quinlivan

New Zealand's leading COVID-19 modelling expert thinks it's safe for the country to move down coronavirus alert levels, with the Cabinet set to review restrictions on Monday.

The country, excluding Auckland, is currently at alert level 2. Auckland is at alert level 2.5 where gatherings are restricted to 10 people.

Professor Shaun Hendy from the University of Auckland is echoing calls from other experts that now is the time for an "alert level 1.5". University of Otago public health expert Prof Michael Baker floated the alert level 1.5 idea last week so limits on public gatherings would remain in place.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Prof Hendy said things are looking under control despite new community COVID-19 cases being announced at the weekend.

"I think the Government will be feeling pretty confident they've got the measure of this cluster. We've gone a week where we've had either one or two new cases in that cluster but those were [cases] that were closely connected to the cluster, and we had a bunch of days with no new cases."

There were three community infections unable to be linked to the main Auckland cluster announced at the weekend.  Two cases announced on Sunday were household contacts of a man who arrived on a flight from India last month.

He completed his managed isolation but developed symptoms and tested positive six days later.

But the cases have been caught early and there's a strong link to the border, Prof Hendy said.

Whatever it was, it's probably linked to the border as opposed to the Americold cluster where it was out in the community, we couldn't see the links to the border.

I think we can shift alert levels - the key thing I worry about is going back to level 1.

Prof Hendy said New Zealand can't afford to relax completely. He said testing numbers need to stay consistent with "heightened messaging".

On top of that, people need to make sure they're not going to work when they're sick, he said.

I'd be looking for something like a [level] 1.5 - hopefully this second outbreak has been a bit of a wakeup call.

New Zealand currently has 71 active cases of coronavirus - 36 of which are imported and 35 in the community.

This article is courtesy of NewsHub reporter Mark Quinlivan