Covid 19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Auckland lockdown for several weeks likely – expert

A Covid-19 modeller says Auckland will likely be in alert level 4 for at least several weeks after the number of cases in the community grew to 107 today.

Professor Shaun Hendy said it was becoming clear New Zealand was dealing with a cluster reaching the upper limit of expectations when it was detected in Auckland nearly a week ago.

“This does mean we will likely see alert level 4 held in place for at least several weeks more in the Auckland region,” said Hendy, of Te Pūnaha Matatini.

“For the rest of the country we will have to wait until later in the week to see if they remain clear, in which case, an alert level shift could be considered on Friday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon the country will remain at alert level 4 until 11.59pm on Friday August 27. Auckland will remain in alert level 4 until 11.59pm on Tuesday August 31.

There are 99 cases in Auckland and eight in Wellington.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said this afternoon the new cases in Wellington were connected with and were close contacts of known cases.

He said all but one had been in isolation throughout their infectious period.

Hendy said officials would need to rule out spread within the community in Wellington to consider a shift in alert levels.

University of Auckland infectious disease expert Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles said it appeared the Government was looking to move parts of New Zealand down to a lower alert level as soon as it could be assured it was safe to do so.

“Given close contacts have travelled all around the country, and we are still within the incubation period of the virus, it is safest for the South Island to remain at alert level 4 for now,” she said.

“Wastewater testing and PCR testing of contacts and anyone with symptoms are both really important tools for identifying where in the country the virus is and who is infected.”

Importantly, she added, testing the wastewater was a new tool that wasn’t available during the last nationwide lockdown.

“We can see by how quickly this outbreak has grown, that the increased infectiousness of delta in combination with super-spreader events can quickly overwhelm the ability to use contact tracing to identify cases and stop chains of transmission,” she said.

“That is why the alert level 4 restrictions are so important for New Zealand to minimise the chance of chains of transmission continuing so that we are able to stamp out this current outbreak.”

University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Nick Wilson said the number of cases reported today wasn’t surprising.

The cases offered assurance there had not been large super-spreading events in the days before the country locked down, he said.

“Due to the fast response, New Zealand is looking like it will probably replicate the success with control of a Delta variant outbreak – as seen in Queensland and South Australia,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the continuation of the alert level 4 setting for the whole country to at least Friday night seems wise as there is still a lot of uncertainty.”

Wilson said the Government should take a “strong regional approach” with tight internal border controls to manage the outbreak.

“This will allow for regions such as the South Island that might soon be declared Covid-19 free to move down through the alert levels faster than regions that still have cases.”

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