Upper Northland returns to lockdown – Expert Reaction

Two unlinked Covid cases in Northland have prompted the Government to put the northern part of the region in Alert Level 3 starting tonight.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the there was no clear or probable link to the latest Northland cases, and the region has very low vaccination rates.

The SMC asked experts to comment.

Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles, School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, comments:

“The strategy is still to try to eliminate COVID-19 outside of Auckland. This is why the northern part of Northland has been moved into Level 3 in response to cases in the area with no immediate link to current cases in Northland. This will give officials time to try to understand where these people may have been exposed to the virus and whether there are undiagnosed cases in the region.

“It is very important that people in the region get tested if they have any symptoms that could be COVID-19. It also important that they get vaccinated if they are not already. The vaccine is very safe and very effective at protecting people from COVID-19.”

No conflicts of interest.

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:

“Today the northern area of Northland was suddenly shifted into Alert Level 3 restrictions. This decision was a result of the unlinked mystery cases of unknown origin yet to be resolved, coupled together with low vaccination rates in the area.

“Vaccination rates in Northland sit at 65 per cent for double vaccinations and 79 per cent for first doses. At present, these are lower when compared with the 75 per cent double vaccination level across Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Daily COVID-19 case numbers in the community have now shifted into three digits and appear to be the ‘new normal’ for Aotearoa New Zealand. These high daily case numbers, rising unlinked mystery cases of unknown origin that continue to appear and remain unresolved, along with increasing numbers of hospitalisations, are occurring at a time when restrictions are being eased. Any sudden shifts reverting areas back into Alert Level 3 should be no surprise.

“The good news, is that vaccination rates for Aotearoa New Zealand, have continued to improve, and this has been encouraging, with 75 per cent of eligible New Zealanders aged 12 years and above, fully vaccinated along with 85 per cent of eligible New Zealanders within the Auckland Region.

“Just as important however, are the vaccination targets needed for Māori and Pacific communities who, to date, have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreaks in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“DHBs will need to ensure at least 90 – 95 per cent full vaccinations for Māori and Pacific peoples to ensure no-one is left behind in Aotearoa New Zealand. This will help keep our most vulnerable communities safe from COVID-19 – and also includes protecting our children and young people.

“Care and caution are still needed moving forward. Please get vaccinated, get tested, follow the Alert level rules and help others do the same.”

No conflict of interest.