22 Feb 2022

Covid-19 experts support government's plan to easing restrictions

8:54 am on 22 February 2022

Covid-19 experts are backing the government's approach to easing restrictions, once Omicron cases passes its peak.

No caption

Vaccine passes are expected to be scrapped once the peak of the Omicron outbreak is over. (File image) Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern laid out a roadmap for when restrictions will go.

She said once the country was over the height of its Omicron outbreak, it would start to drop down the traffic light settings.

Vaccine passes will then be scrapped and mandates eased.

Daily case numbers are expected to peak in just three to six weeks.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Covid-19 modeller Dion O'Neale said he expected all New Zealanders would be exposed to Omicron in one way or another by the end of this wave.

"We know we are going to see really high cases numbers, it is going to be quite scary, there is going to be quite a few people who get quite sick," he said.

O'Neale said so far the growth rate of Omicron in this country has been exactly as predicted.

He said ultimately how people behaved and how many people received boosters would influence the number of cases.

He said the government's approach of waiting until easing restrictions and mandates was "pragmatic".

Epidemiologist Michael Baker said the approach was "sensible".

He said it is the wrong time to be cutting back on Covid controls now because New Zealand is about to go through "a very intense period of exposure to this virus".

"You really want people to be as vaccinated as possible at this stage so I think it's the wrong time to be looking at cutting back on those controls.

"In another six weeks the population will have been highly exposed to the Omicron variant, we will have the highest effective immunity we've had since the pandemic began and after that will be a good time to review which of these controls are still needed."

He said after the Omicron wave it will be a matter of working through all the control measures in place to determine "which are achieving a good result and which are inconvenient and not really effective".

Baker noted that some mandates were likely to remain even once Omicron cases declined.

Mandates for international flights, travel insurance, and in the health care sector could stay, he said.

"We have had mandates for years in the health sector, I don't think they're going to disappear, I think it is more about finding the right balance, that they are protecting us from most things that people agree are important and also that they are not overly intrusive and unfair for people," he said.

But even with a balance, it would not suit everyone, he said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs