20 Oct 2021

Covid-19: Modeller on what case numbers could be on the way

From Morning Report, 7:28 am on 20 October 2021

A Covid-19 modeller says daily numbers could top out at around 150,200 cases a day by the middle of November, but New Zealand is also risking a New South Wales-style blowout.

The country hit a new record of daily Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, 94 with more than half unlinked, sparking fears the contact tracing system could soon go under.

Professor Michael Plank from Te Pūnaha Matatini told Morning Report contact tracing could help keep things under control.

"If we can keep everything sort of as it is at the moment, and everything keeps working, it could be that the cases will flatten out at maybe 150, 200 a day by mid-November, as our vaccination program ramps up and the vaccines gradually put the brakes on the virus.

"But one of the dangers at the moment is if the contact tracing system really struggles to keep up with the number of cases that it's being asked to deal with the cases could really accelerate, and if that happens, we could see a much higher number of cases."

Prof Plank said with hindsight Auckland may have left alert level 4 too early, but staying any longer would only have bought more time.

"It may well not have eliminated the outbreak, and so we may have ended up in a very similar situation to what we are now. It might have bought us a week, but it probably wouldn't have completely eliminated."

He also didn't back the National Party's plan to end lockdowns when vaccinations reached between 85 and 90 percent or on December 1.

"I don't think it's a very good idea to put fixed dates on things, I think we need to be responsive to what's happening in terms of the outbreak, and we need to be guided by the number of people that we've got vaccinated, and the epidemiology of the outbreak and the number of cases that load on the healthcare system, those sorts of things.

"They will change over time, so we need to be able to respond to that."