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Podcast: RNZ Checkpoint

“We hear a lot of anecdotal reports of that. Also, the rules were relaxed a bit in terms of more social gathering outdoors and outdoor gatherings on the face of it should be relatively low risk because there’s better ventilation, but of course, it does provide more opportunities for mixing and they may turn into indoor parties and so on,” he told RNZ Checkpoint tonight.

“So I think we are seeing those effects.”

He said on the plus side, as the number of people vaccinated increased, the reproduction number would decrease.

Hurting Māori and Pasifika
However, the outbreak could still get out of control, hurting Māori and Pasifika in particular.

“The unvaccinated are increasingly Māori and Pacific people. So we do run the risk of this becoming a very unequal outbreak, and I think that’s a really critical factor that government needs to look at, at the moment.”

Professor Baker also said a level 4 lockdown may still be necessary, depending on the outbreak’s movement.

“I don’t think that we can rule out the need for some kind of circuit breaker lockdown in the future, but at the moment, it looks like the system is managing these numbers.”

He said if the country could reach 90 percent vaccination coverage, it would be reasonable to move to level 2.

He said Auckland’s border could be dropped by Christmas “potentially” if there was uniformly high vaccine coverage across Aotearoa.

“This is where I think we could definitely move down to alert level two, which actually puts very few barriers in the way of the virus, in practice, and in addition, we could have the schools open again.

“So I think that would be a good point to make that move.”

But it was critical that high vaccination coverage included Māori and Pasifika demographics, for dropping the border to be safe, he said.

Decision on alert changes
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced Cabinet’s decision on changes to alert levels for Auckland, Northland and parts of Waikato.

The government will announce a new “covid-19 protection framework” on Friday for when the country is at a higher vaccination rate.

On Wednesday, Covid 19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will provide up-to-date advice on schools reopening.

  • Northland will move to level 2 at 11.59pm on 19 October.
  • Parts of Waikato in level 3 will remain there with a review on Friday.
  • Auckland will remain in level 3 with current restrictions for another two weeks.

For Auckland, Ardern acknowledged that it had been a long time to be living with restrictions.

“But those restrictions have made a huge difference, they’ve helped us to keep case numbers as low as possible while we continue to vaccinate people,” she said.

Ardern said non-compliance with level 3 rules had been one of the biggest contributors to new cases.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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