Auckland isn't ready to join the rest of the country in moving down to Alert Level 2 in coming days, according to an expert in public health.
Cabinet will meet today to review New Zealand’s current alert levels. Since Monday, Auckland has been at Alert Level 2.5 after a number of weeks at Level 3, while the rest of the country remains at Level 2.
Professor Nick Wilson from the University of Otago told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning that while the alert level has "served us well and as a great communication tool," it "does need to be revised" with more grading.
"There's been this good move to Level 2.5, but we also probably need a Level 1.5," he said.
Wilson said the "extra nuance" allows people to take into consideration the use of masks at different alert levels, as well as other considerations, for a "more targeted approach" which can "minimise some of the economic disruption, but also rapidly continue to progress towards elimination status again."
He said Level 2.5 New Zealanders "need to make way better use of masks," adding that while masks are currently only enforced on public transport, they should be used in "all indoor public settings" where there is a higher risk of transmission," including workplaces, schools, shopping areas, and social gatherings, particularly when there is a greater risk of loud talking and singing.
"It may just be needed for a few weeks until we can get success with controlling the current Auckland outbreak."
Wilson said, however, that he doesn't believe Auckland is ready to move down to Alert Level 2, saying that we "really need to make better progress with runs of zero new cases a day."
"We see, internationally, that it can require quite tight controls to get back to elimination status," he said.
"We really don't want to see the situation in Victoria (Australia), for example, emerge in New Zealand where they nearly achieved elimination, and then there was a failure that they were unable to control, so we really need to keep the foot on the brake to get these gains so we achieve elimination and we retain it.
"Don't have a yo-yo situation where we have further outbreaks. We really need to ensure success, and we need to make good use of masks to help get there."
Wilson called New Zealand's Covid-19 elimination strategy is "realistic," however.
He said a "number of jurisdictions around the world" have successfully achieved elimination, including China, Taiwan and five Australian states and territories, making New Zealand's goal "very achieveable".
"New Zealand's achieved it before and can get there - it just requires this extra push, smart use of masks and retaining some of these alert level restrictions for a bit longer."