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NZ could lose Covid-19 gains 'very quickly' if complacency sets in, experts warn

New Zealand's key public health experts during the Covid-19 crisis are celebrating 100 days without community transmission, but warn caution is still needed against the virus.

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Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Professor Michael Baker say people shouldn't get complacent. Source: Breakfast

There are currently 23 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, all in managed isolation or quarantine. Yesterday marked 100 days since there was a case in the community from an unknown source.

However microbiologist Dr Siouxie Wiles, who was one of the leading public health experts throughout lockdown, says people need to remember it's a marathon, not a sprint.

"Covid-19 is accelerating around the world and we're in an enviable position, but that doesn't mean we could lose that very quickly if we take our eye off the ball," she told TVNZ 1's Breakfast this morning.

With restrictions largely lifted, except at the border, Dr Wiles says Kiwis are in an enviable position and able to safely enjoy things most countries can't - like going to the movies, or hanging out with a group of friends.

But she warns the relaxed rules means attitudes are cooling for some.

"I noticed myself that before I was coming home and religiously washing my hands after going outside, I'm not doing that sort of thing anymore," she admitted.

Epidemiologist and Otago University's Professor Michael Baker was one of the public health advisors to the Government during the emergency pandemic response.

He echoes Dr Wiles' comments that people need to stay alert.

"The pandemic will continue to accelerate, it's only getting started in some places," he says.

"I think one of the big lessons was if you're sick, stay at home. If you've got a cold or flu-like symptoms. In the past we'd soldier on, it was almost a matter of pride to do that, we have to completely change that mindset."

Both Prof Baker and Dr Wiles urge people to keep tracking where they've been, for effective contact tracing in case of another outbreak.

"What it took before, with decisive quick action, we just need to be prepared for doing that again," Dr Wiles says.

Prof Baker also addressed the proposed travel bubbles, which were initially focused on Australia and have been stymied by a recent surge in cases across the ditch.

The Cook Islands has been pushing hard for a travel bubble with New Zealand as it's also free of Covid-19.

"There are opportunities to start opening up very cautiously with the other countries that have eliminated the virus, particularly some of the Pacific Island countries that have entirely excluded it," Prof Baker says.

Last week the Government announced a shift in policy around face masks, encouraging all Kiwis to get their own and be prepared.

If the country moves back to Alert Level 2, it would mean mandatory masks.