As Auckland scrambles back into lockdown, Michael Baker says there's a 'huge responsibility' on people to look out for symptoms

It’s likely more cases will emerge following the announcement of a new community case with no direct link to the Auckland cluster, says Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker.

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The epidemiologist says the decision by the Government to move up an alert level is never taken lightly. Source: Q+A

“We don’t know how this case, Case M, got infected. We have suspicions that it’s obviously part of this extended outbreak, but that does suggest maybe other infected people haven’t been identified,” Baker told Q+A with Jack Tame. 

Baker says the latest case could have attended a lot of venues with other infected people that haven’t been detected yet and caught the virus.

The case is a 21-year-old male and is the sibling of a Papatoetoe High School student who has not tested positive for the virus. 

The new case's mother has also returned a weak positive for Covid-19.

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The 21-year-old visited a number of locations around South Auckland. Places of interest include City Fitness in Hunters Plaza (20 and 26 February). Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) (22, 25, 26 February), Hunters Plaza (February 26), Burger King Highland Park (February 25), Your Health Pharmacy (February 23) and Pak'n Save Manukau (February 21).

Baker says this is still a manageable outbreak with a clear starting point given the results of genomic sequencing linking the latest case to one of the families involved in the cluster.

Auckland came out of lockdown after just three days when the initial cluster was discovered causing some experts to question if the move was premature.

Baker says he believes there should be a more “fine grained approach” to the lower alert levels to help stop the spread of the virus without going back into lockdown.

“This is the idea of a 2.5 or a 1.5 as well as a Level 2 because we try to avoid lockdown and these extra levels could be developed more because they’re already in the system.”

He also said masks should be encouraged more indoors, saying the virus is spread in environments such as households and schools.

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"What we know about this virus, how it's transmitted between people in indoor environments, and really fine-tune the alert levels to take that into account." 

Baker said there was "huge responsibility" on people around the country, but in Auckland in particular, to look out for symptoms, because it's still the best of way of determining the extent of the outbreak.

"We always talk about cold and flu symptoms, and that's really a shorthand for quite a long list of features. But the flu-like symptoms cover things we don't normally think about so much - muscle aches and tiredness.

"So if people have those symptoms, I think err on the side of caution, ring Healthline, don't go out to social events and get tested if you're advised to by Healthline. That's so important at the moment."