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Pausing travel from NSW the right thing because Sydney cases could be ‘tip of an iceberg’, says Michael Baker


Pausing travel from New South Wales is the right thing to do as Sydney’s latest mystery Covid-19 cases could be the “tip of an iceberg of an outbreak”, epidemiologist Michael Baker says.

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The epidemiologist says this is the trans-Tasman bubble system is working as it was intended. Source: Breakfast

The University of Otago expert said the pause that was announced yesterday was the trans-Tasman bubble system working as it was intended.

“I think the opening up [of trans-Tasman travel] is going well and we do know there will be setbacks,” he told Breakfast today.

“There have been setbacks in New Zealand and most states and territories in Australia. This is the system working as it is intended.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced yesterday that the travel bubble between New Zealand and New South Wales will be put on pause, starting at midnight last night.

Baker supported Hipkin’s decision.

“Hopefully over time we’ll get more confident in how we use the system. At the moment, I don’t think the New Zealand Government had any choice because this outbreak in New South Wales was clearly in that amber zone,” he said.

“That’s where you have even a small number of cases in the community but the ominous aspect is that you don’t know the source and that means you might be looking at the tip of an iceberg of an outbreak. Hopefully not.

“I think they’re following the rules they set out, the principles, and I think that’s the right thing to do. Unfortunately, I mean it’s very difficult for people whose plans are upset.”

Baker also said he is pessimistic about the next few months of the pandemic in the developing world -- including the subcontinent, Africa, and South America -- after the record-breaking number of cases in India in recent weeks.

“We are going to see more of these awful statistics over the next few months and the only way out for these countries will be tough public health measures and vaccination, and that’s going to take months, unfortunately,” he said.

“We’re going to see more of these numbers from this part of the world.”