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'Possibility' Auckland's Covid-19 outbreak has spread outside city - virus modelling expert

A virus modelling expert is warning New Zealanders to be "aware of the possibility" that Auckland's Covid-19 outbreak could have spread to other parts of the country, but says as it stands the nation isn't looking at a worst case scenario.

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The virus modelling expert says New Zealand has learnt a lot already about controlling the disease. Source: Breakfast

It was announced last night by the Prime Minister after the positive tests that Auckland will move into Alert Level 3 at midday today with the rest of the country moving to Alert Level 2.

Prof Hendy, who has worked on modelling the spread of coronavirus through the pandemic, said the Government had “to assume there are other active cases we don’t know about”.

“We’re working on the assumption that something come through the border,” Prof Hendy said.

“This is why the Government has put quite wide restrictions on Auckland.”

Prof Hendy said the effectiveness of lockdown in New Zealand meant the country was not looking at a worst-case scenario.

“No, I don’t think [we’re looking a worst-case scenario] so, we have learnt a lot about how to fight this disease,” he said.

“We know lockdown works in New Zealand, we’ve also had a good period where we’ve been able to ramp up our contact tracing.”

“The move to Alert Level 3 should slow down transmission and make contact tracing easier.”

The most likely explanation for the reappearance of the disease in the community was through the border, according to Prof Hendy.

“We haven’t seen community transmission in New Zealand for a very long time so we’re pretty sure the disease that arrived in February and March has been eliminated.”

“It’s very unlikely that that [community transmission] could have gone on for that period of time without us seeing it.”

“There will be some connection to the border we assume but we don’t know what that connection is.”

Prof Hendy refused to put too much blame on border management for the reappearance of the disease in the community.

“Even if you do [manage the borders as well as you can] as well as you can there’s still a chance something could leak through, there is also the possibility that there has been some breakdown,” he said.

“These are difficult facilities to run, this is a difficult disease to control.”

“We do have to look to our border facilities, we can’t spend enough attention on our border facilities, once we get through this outbreak they are going to continue being really important.”

Prof Hendy said Aucklanders and people who have been in Auckland needed to be aware that there would be other active cases in the community.

“We know about this family and their immediate contacts, but we have to assume there are other active cases we don’t know about,” Prof Hendy said.

“People in other parts of the country should be aware that there’s a possibility that it has left Auckland.”

“Take those Level 2 restrictions that are present in the rest of the country really seriously.”

“If you’re able to wear a mask, then I encourage you to do so, you’re protecting other people.”