Microbiologist and Covid-19 expert Siouxsie Wiles acknowledged today that Opposition leader Todd Muller’s suspicion there could still be undetected community spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand isn't beyond the realm of possibility.
But, Dr Wiles said, those suspicions are nothing new and there is no evidence to prove that spread has occurred.
Speaking on TVNZ1's Breakfast yesterday, Mr Muller pointed to the country's recent border bungles as the reason he suspects community transmission.
Dr Wiles told Breakfast this morning that community spread has always been a risk, which is why health officials have continued to encourage Kiwis to get tested, especially as the country heads into winter.
“It’s always been a risk because we know the border is the line and people are going to come into the country.”
She says there is no evidence that community transmission has occurred in New Zealand.
“From the testing that’s been done, all the cases that have been picked up have been those that are in managed isolation - we really must remember that,” says Dr Wiles.
“We’ve always said once we’ve eliminated, this is where the virus is going to come in. We need really good standards around how people behave in those facilities and how they’re treated and how they’re managed, so we know that.”
She says the risk of community spread has always been there if the first line of defence - New Zealand's borders - fails, which is why Kiwis are still being encouraged to be tested for the virus.
“One of the really important things, though, is that we also have said the reason why we want people to still go and get tested if they have symptoms is in case there are any breaches that we can pick those up, that we have the contract tracing to do that.
“We don’t think it is in the community but this is our second line of defence, right. Our first line of defence is the border... and that’s all about ensuring that we pick up if anything is out there."
She says with nearly 10 million cases around the world, New Zealand is "in this for the long haul".
"We have to be absolutely mindful that we want to make sure that if we have the sniffles, it is just the sniffles."