11 Oct 2021

Level 2 Christmas possible for Auckland if vaccinations rise - top epidemiologist

From Checkpoint, 5:38 pm on 11 October 2021

Auckland is stuck at alert level 3 for at least another week, with the prime minister saying the country is at one of the most challenging moments in the pandemic so far.

Auckland students will not go back to classroom learning next week, as planned as it is too risky.

For Northland and Waikato the alert level will drop to level 2 on Thursday night, provided it gets final sign-off on Wednesday.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker told Lisa Owen he believes Auckland will be in level 2 by Christmas.

However, he agrees with Auckland staying at alert level 3 for the time being, saying it is needed to keep a lid on what has been happening in the region. 

It may take another week for the region's new freedoms to be reflected in the number of cases and he suspects more restrictions may be needed rather than fewer. 

Professor Baker said if schools had reopened next week there would have been a steep rise in cases. 

He said the alert level system needs fine tuning, and the "steps" part of it needs to be scrapped.

The system, announced last week, assumed the city would keep on moving down but this was not the case. 

"Unfortunately we may have to actually go up a level slightly, perhaps creating a 'three plus', where we look at ways of dampening down transmission, but still trying to keep the Auckland economy moving."

But he said we would have to "wait and see", depending on how cases rise or fall in coming weeks.

Professor Baker also said the vaccination mandates announced today for some health workers are "a good start" but there are some holes in the plan. 

Hospitals are "huge employers" with different workers moving through. One example he said are cleaners, who he thinks are not part of the mandatory vaccination policy.

"We basically have to mandate vaccination for all workers who enter the premises of any healthcare institution in New Zealand."