A “circuit breaker” lockdown is not on the cards for Auckland despite the growing outbreak in the region and assertions from experts that it might be necessary.
All the key indicators – rising case numbers, the number of unlinked cases and the rate of those infectious in the community – point to the fact Auckland’s outbreak is “accelerating”, public health experts say.
The changing trend has prompted many to call for a short, sharp return to an alert level 4 lockdown to get the outbreak under control.
But on Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Minister advised officials were “not considering” a circuit breaker lockdown for the region.
* Covid-19: Rising infectious cases in the community ‘a sign outbreak is worsening’
* Experts divided on likelihood of Christmas travel to and from Auckland
* Covid-19: 55 new cases in Delta outbreak, level 3 extended for Waikato and Northland
During the press conference, Hipkins acknowledged Auckland’s case numbers were set to increase.
“There’s no question we’re going into a period where we are likely to see quite significant growth in the number of cases.”
However, Hipkins said the alert level system relied very heavily on a “high degree” of voluntary compliance and that was likely to wane the longer it went on.
In countries overseas that have tried to sustain restrictions for a long period of time, the effectiveness of these restrictions “diminishes”, he said.
Hipkins stated there was a “very good chance” we would still be in this position – seeing an escalation of cases – had Auckland stayed at alert level 4 the entire time.
The level of support for restrictions remains high, but it only required the “small minority” who don’t follow the rules to increase for the effectiveness of restrictions to diminish “quite significantly”, he said.
He said there were things New Zealanders could do to minimise the trajectory, including remembering Auckland is at alert level 3 and following the “spirit” of restrictions. The other is vaccination.
In a piece published by Stuff on Wednesday morning, epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said if it was clear the new-look level 3 was resulting in more community spread, officials would need to look at what could be done to slow it down, including opting for a “circuit breaker” lockdown.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says as long as the R level is above one, Covid cases will rise, and Aucklanders must adhere to the new level 3 rules to keep cases steady.
In response to the minister’s comments on Wednesday afternoon, Baker said there needed to be flexibility in the Government’s response to the pandemic, and the ability to adjust controls against the intensity of the outbreak.
“I don’t think you’d want to paint yourself into a corner” by ruling anything out, he said.
Baker said he had concerns about officials “limiting their choices” in the measures it was willing to take to dampen down the Auckland outbreak.
He said it was possible to regain control of the situation, but that would also require “real clarity” about the Government’s strategy first.
That was echoed by Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, epidemiologist in the Department of Public Health, University of Otago (Wellington) in comments to the Science Media Centre.
“These trends show that it’s time to talk about a circuit-breaker.”
“A move back to alert level 4 is the best and probably only chance of reversing these highly-concerning trends that are all moving in the wrong direction,” she said.
Kvalsvig said vaccination was not going to happen fast enough to reverse these trends, and we need to buy time.
She said before deciding on Aucklanders’ behalf that people were “too tired” of lockdowns, we need to hear from Aucklanders.
Kvalsvig also stressed ruling out alert level 4 would effectively rule out level 1, leaving Aucklanders in “the worst of both worlds” – with many restrictions and a large – and growing – number of cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.
Dr Dion O’Neale, principal investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini, also told SMC there was a “strong case” for a temporary return to alert level 4 in Auckland to limit transmission for a few weeks while we push to vaccinate as many people as possible.
The indicators all suggest we are back in a “growth phase” of the outbreak with case numbers rising, and it would be “very tough to vaccinate our way out” of growing case numbers, O’Neale said.
A circuit-breaker wouldn’t get Auckland to zero cases in a short time, but it would mean more people in under-protected groups in and out of Auckland could be vaccinated, he said.
It would also allow contact tracers to potentially ring-fence some more of the outbreak’s sub-clusters.
This article first show on www.stuff.co.nz Source link Author HANNAH MARTIN on date 2021-10-13 08:12:38