23 Aug 2020

Data modelling expert says latest Covid-19 numbers good news, but caution needed

6:26 pm on 23 August 2020

A Covid-19 data modelling expert believes the government needs to be cautious when Cabinet considers whether to change the alert levels tomorrow.

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Photo: Shaun Hendy

The latest figures show that only one of the three latest cases are linked to the Auckland cluster.

The other two are people entering the country who are in managed isolation.

University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy says the government will be carefully looking at the latest data.

But he says overall, the recent Covid-19 numbers are good news.

"We don't want to see these numbers rising but we just do need to to put it context that this is quite a large, sprawling cluster that's really touched lots of different parts of Auckland so it'll be a while before we get confidence and certainty that we've found the edges of this cluster and there's no more undetected transmission taking place."

As for alert levels, Hendy said the government would be "looking at a lot of the different data sources and they will have access to the latest genomic information and they will have a much greater insight into the nature of contacts that have taken place between the individuals.

"So they will be looking at a more complete data set than I have access to. Having said that. I would prefer them to be cautious, there's still a reasonable chance of undetected transmission out there, even though we have had very, very high testing rates over the last week and that will give them confidence."

Asked for his advice for the public, Hendy said: "These numbers are really good news but we can't take our foot off the brake just yet.

"We may see that there's some dropping of restrictions that are coming up but we should also prepare to see these restrictions be extended for a bit longer.

"I think the news is pretty good for the rest of the country, the testing rates haven't been as high in other parts of the country as they have in Auckland but they should give us some reassurance that the disease ... does seem to have been contained.

"Nonetheless, people should be cautious. We should still be taking precautions and using masks when appropriate."

Hendy said to be sure Covid-19 had been eliminated it could take as long as several weeks with no detected cases.

"It really does take a while before you can be completely sure that you have stamped the disease out."

He encouraged people to get tested if they had symptoms - "that's one of the most important things you can do".

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

One of the main challenges around the virus was that not everyone who had it developed symptoms.

"Very often there are people who don't have symptoms but are still infectious, and that's why these lockdowns necessary, it's really to stamp out those chains of transmission that are hard to spot."

Cabinet met on Friday morning to review the settings for the alert level restrictions throughout the country, but a decision on whether to stay or change will not be made until Monday.

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