Northland lockdown after Covid case moves “extensively” through the region – Expert Reaction

Northland will move to Alert Level 3 from midnight, after a single Covid case was detected.

Covid-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins says the infected woman had quite a bit of movement through the region, but is not co-operating with contact tracing officials. He also says the region has low vaccination rates, which formed part of the decision to lock it down.

The SMC asked experts to respond. Feel free to use these comments in your reporting or follow up with the contact details provided.

Lesley Gray, Senior Lecturer, Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice, University of Otago, comments:

“With the Delta variant of COVID-19 and numbers of cases, including ‘not yet linked’ cases in the last week or so, and the levels of vaccinations, I was surprised the Government moved to relax some level restrictions on Monday.

“It is not at all surprising that we now are starting to see cases pop up in adjacent regions, and I am concerned that we still have low vaccinations numbers in some areas and especially in populations likely to be most severely impacted by the Delta variant. While we can argue ‘why’ that is, we are at a pivot point in this pandemic for Aotearoa New Zealand.

“I would like to see the vaccination rates in North Island at higher levels before any further significant relaxation of alert level restrictions. Now is not the time for the Auckland region to be relaxing alert levels and while I appreciate this is a huge ask of Auckland region residents, I urge people to behave as if they are still in alert level 4 to minimise rapid escalation of this virus. For those in the rest of NZ, please behave as if everyone around you has the potential to be Covid-19 positive and raise your family/whānau levels of preventive actions, especially this coming weekend.

“While the government may have shifted their approach, the population of NZ can still make a difference by the decisions and actions we take.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Immunologist, Associate Dean (Pacific), Head of University of Otago Wellington Pacific Office, and Senior Lecturer, Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington, comments:

“The ongoing potential impact and consequences for our most vulnerable communities at this time remains serious, with Delta being introduced in Northland at a time when restrictions were already being eased in Auckland, and vaccination rates needed to be higher to keep everyone protected.

“The Alert Level 3 change for Northland with accelerated testing and vaccination efforts will be important steps to prevent COVID-19 spreading and becoming established in the area.

“Getting vaccinated demonstrates our commitment to keeping each other safe, and this includes our most vulnerable. Please get vaccinated, please get tested, please follow the alert level rules, and above all, please reach out to others and help them do the same.”

No conflict of interest declared.