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Government revises Alert Level 2 rules – Expert Reaction

The New Zealand Government has today revised the rules of COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

Gatherings can increase to 100 people from midday on Friday, 29 May. The announcement comes 18 days after the initial guidelines were announced. Cabinet will meet to assess the impact of these changes in two weeks, on Monday, 8 June.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the new rules. 

Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, comments:

“It was good to hear the government reiterate its commitment to moving to Alert Level 1 when it is safe to do so. The staggered approach it is taking to Alert Level 2 gives us the best chance of this happening.

“Given the incubation period of the virus, we are just a few days off knowing how effective this first phase of Alert Level 2 has been, but things are looking very promising so far.

“As we become able to gather in larger groups, it becomes even more important that we stay away from others if we feel unwell and organise to get tested if we experience any symptoms that could be a sign of Covid-19, including a loss of taste or smell, or a sore throat or dry cough.”

No conflict of interest.

Professor Michael Plank, Te Pūnaha Matatini and University of Canterbury, comments:

“The decision to move the gathering size limit from 10 to 100 is a cause for concern, as it’s such a big increase. Covid-19 doesn’t tend to spread in ones and twos, it tends to spread to a large number of people in one go at big, social gatherings, such as a wedding or bar. If this happens, trying to trace 100 people and all their contacts is a lot harder than if there were just 10.

“As the PM pointed out today, the loosening of restrictions gives New Zealanders more freedom than most other countries have right now. With that increased freedom comes responsibility so, first of all, people should ask themselves whether they really need to hold a large function or attend a big gathering.

“If you do, then it’s more important than ever to make sure you practice good hand hygiene and social distancing, and make sure both you and the venue have a record of your attendance. People can do this with the NZ COVID Tracer app, but for the time being venues also need to keep their own records of everyone who visits. If everyone does this, it will really help our contact tracers track everyone down quickly if we do get a new case cluster at a large gathering.”

No conflict of interest.

Dr Dougal Sutherland, Clinical Psychologist, Victoria University of Wellington and Umbrella Health, comments:

“Today’s announcement from the Prime Minister indicates a further loosening of restrictions and takes us closer to “normal”. But normal brings with it many challenges.

“Under lockdown some of us have developed new ways of living. We’ve set up home offices. Life has slowed down. We’ve had more time for the kids and the dog. The challenge for this group in returning to normal is how to hold onto the good things we’ve discovered and make them a permanent part of our lives.

“For others the new normal will bring with it harsh realities. We can’t return to our old job as it no longer exists. We may have to move house as we can’t afford the mortgage. The kids will have to go without, as money is hard to come by. The challenges for this group are obvious.

“As we emerge from the shadow of the coronavirus we, as a country, have a challenge in front of us. Do we continue to show kindness, compassion, and practical support to those who are suffering? Or do we cast off these values as they were only temporary clothes worn in strange, unprecedented times? We are approaching a cross-roads in our nation’s history. Do we choose to pick up the challenge and move forwards or do we turn our backs on this opportunity?”

No conflict of interest.