Horotiu section of Waikato River Trail. Photo: Jamesthethomas5 on Unsplash

High alert persists in Northland and Waikato – Expert Reaction

Northland and parts of Waikato are to stay at Alert Level 3 for at least another five days.

Among a total of 55 new cases revealed today, there were two mystery cases in Waikato that are yet to be linked to the outbreak. The Alert Levels will be reviewed on Monday.

The SMC asked experts to respond to today’s Covid-19 news. Feel free to use these comments in your reporting or follow up with the contact details provided.

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 alert level restriction extensions for Northland and Waikato are much needed at this time. A high degree of risk remains for all  – particularly for our most vulnerable and unprotected communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, and with vaccination levels as they stand currently.

“A general upward trend in case numbers is continuing, with persistent unlinked mystery cases of unknown origin emerging, and appearing under alert level 3 conditions at a time when vaccination levels are sitting at about 57 per cent of those eligible and aged over 12 years fully vaccinated.

“Border breaches continue, with border controls requiring attention as Delta has continued transmitting through the community and across borders under current alert level conditions – vaccination rates still need to be much higher to keep everyone protected.

“It has already been revealed that the R value for the virus has risen and was sitting between 1.2 and 1.3, with any significant shifts upwards having potentially serious consequences for our most vulnerable communities and the unprotected in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The implications for the COVID-19 situation moving forward must include a continued equity focus for approaching vaccination, testing and prevention efforts – this will help reduce barriers, improve access and build trust with vulnerable communities to ensure people get the help they need, when they need it –  whether it be the vaccine or a test or other health and support services.

“The consequences of any premature changes such as easing restrictions too quickly given our vaccination rates at this time, along with the adverse health impact already seen for our vulnerable in Aotearoa New Zealand, will be dire.

“One only has to consider the situation in other countries – with their high hospitalisations and deaths – for a reality check.

“Please get vaccinated, please get tested, please follow the alert level rules, and importantly, help others around you to do the same.”

No conflict of interest declared.