Should Auckland come down to level 2 tomorrow?

Covid cases continue to be reported in Auckland with 13 new cases yesterday, about half of those from community transmission. Should Auckland lower to level 2 as planned at midnight?

From a health perspective this must be a risk.

From a political perspective with an election coming up in October it may be more of a risk not to allow the level to drop.

The Ministry of Health is pushing for more testing in South and West Auckland in particular:

Say yes to the test

Widespread testing is a critical part of our COVID-19 elimination strategy. COVID-19 tests are free and should be easy to access for everyone. We have more than 1,100 testing sites nationwide, including at most GPs.

If you’re in South or West Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms, please have a test.

UPDATE: this is apparently incorrect and all people in South and West Auckland are not encouraged to have a test. There has been a lot of criticism of this and the poor communication from the Ministry of Health and Ardern in correcting it.

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, wherever you are, please call Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor immediately and have a test.

Testing sites will be open this weekend, right across the country – this includes GPs and community-based assessment centres. 

Pop-up testing sites continue to move around Auckland communities to ensure nearby, easy and equitable access to testing, particularly for Māori and for Pacific peoples. 

With “Māori and for Pacific peoples” at greater risk at the moment it’s a big call for the Government to relax restrictions.

There are currently 137 active cases, with 11 people in hospital and three in intensive care.

The big concern right now should be that the numbers of new cases have been persistent for two weeks.

New confirmed and probable cases over time

So the current outbreak in Auckland looks barely under control. Relaxing restrictions to level 2 must risk this getting out of control.

A delay and hope Covid decision

Any decisions dealing with Covid are difficult for the Government. They are committed to keeping Covid case numbers as low as possible, but also have to consider the social and economic implications of any decisions. With wage subsidies due to end soon there are increasing warnings a business and job crunch coming.

And being politicians the election, recently delayed until October 19, is an important factor for them.

The Government committed themselves to making a decision on the current outbreak and lockdowns by yesterday, and they sort of made a decision – delaying reducing the level 3 lockdown in Auckland until the end of the week.

With new community cases every day still this looks to me like a wait and hope decision – they will be hoping that things improve enough over the next few days to justify dropping Auckland to the significantly less restrictive level 2. If community cases continue to increase through this week the Government will have to seriously consider extending the current lockdown levels.

And the decision to not lower the level 2 lockdown in the rest of the country, despite no cases outside Auckland, appears to reflect the practical difficulties in having regional differences in lockdown levels. Lowering Auckland to level 2 will mean the roadblocks enclosing the city will no longer be needed there, but having a different lockdown level beyond the city would be difficult to manage.

Some people are happy to see the Government tend towards caution to minimise the chances of community transmission spreading beyond Auckland.

Health at any cost is preferred by some, especially those who are older, or are medically more vulnerable, and also those who don’t rely on working for a living or who have secure jobs.

But a growing number of people will be disappointed or annoyed at ongoing limits to their lifestyles.

The Government has to try to balance these conflicting situations.

They also continue to tweak the lockdown rules. After months of pressure they have introduced mandatory mask wearing for anyone using public transport. This change is in response to people catching Covid while using buses.

There is already further pressure to also require mask wearing in other situations of public gatherings, especially in bars and cafes, but there are obvious issues with requiring the wearing of masks where people eat and drink.

There are indications from the Director-General of Health that face mask wearing may be required more to try to avoid going to higher lockdown levels.

There are no easy decisions with Covid.

For the rest of the week we basically have to wait and see whether the current plan to reduce Auckland to level 2 next Monday can go ahead or not.

This means we continue to live with significant uncertainties. That is something we are likely to have to contend with for months, if not a year or two.

Covid lockdown levels to remain for 12 more days

The official announcement:

14 August 2020

Help stop the spread.

Auckland remains at Level 3,
rest of the country at Level 2

The Government has announced that current alert levels will remain in place until at least 26 August.

The Prime Minister said the decision was based on a range of considerations, including the results of contract tracing, testing rates and results, genome sequencing, and other information gathering since the resurgence of the virus.

The Government is also making changes to the wage subsidy scheme, the leave support scheme and the mortgage deferral scheme

The details will be finalised next week, but the changes will be nationwide and will cover the period of time that level 3 restrictions are in place.

You can watch the livestream of the media conference here.

Travelling to and from Auckland is still restricted

It’s important we limit non-essential travel to restrict the spread of Covid-19. You can travel into, out of, or through Auckland if you are returning to your primary residence. Not to go to a bach or holiday home.

There are limited exemptions for some people to travel. This includes people are who are moving freight, and a range of government workers.

Police are enforcing this at road checkpoints around Auckland.

The restrictions on flying into and out of Auckland are the same as driving in our out.

Outside Auckland, people can still travel so long as they do it safely and contact trace.

Getting the right information matters

Beware of misinformation on social media and other sources. Only share information from official sources. Misinformation works against us at a time when we need to work together to beat the virus. Here’s where you can go to find accurate and timely information:

Try and wear a face covering when out of the house

The Ministry of Health is encouraging the use of face coverings as an additional tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19, as well as maintaining those other very important hygiene measures like physical distancing and handwashing.

A face covering is most important in closed public spaces where it’s difficult to keep physical distancing, such as supermarkets and public transport. 

Remember, face coverings can be homemade. You can also use a bandana or scarf that fully covers your mouth and nose.

Over one million New Zealanders have the NZ COVID Tracer app

The latest surge in New Zealanders downloading the NZ COVID Tracer app has taken it over the 1 million mark of registered users.

Well done New Zealand. Do your bit. Start using it today.

The NZ COVID Tracer app gives us a strong head start in responding. It is not enough to rely on your memory or personal records.

All businesses will need to display a QR code for the NZ COVID Trader app by 11:59am on 19 August. It is easy for businesses to download a QR code for their business using a fast new process.

If you need help generating your QR code posters or have questions or feedback about NZ COVID Tracer:

Catching the virus by food is unlikely

The risk of Covid-19 transmission via food packaging is very unlikely and New Zealand Food Safety do not recommend disinfecting food products. 

Coronaviruses cannot grow in food. They need a host (animal or human) to grow in. Cooking for at least 30 minutes at 60°C will kill the virus.

Coronaviruses are most commonly passed between animals and people and from person-to-person contact.


Information for Pacific peoples.

Useful posters for your workplace or community.

Information in sign language and easy read formats.

Find out what support is available for individuals, whānau, foreign nationals, and businesses

Translations of essential information are available in 16 different languages on the COVID-19 website.

Up-to-date Alert Level information is on the COVID-19 website.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020 outlines current restrictions and requirements.

Contact information

Call Healthline if you have symptoms 0800 358 5453

Need to talk? Call or text 1737

Report breaches of self-isolation

Get the latest information on our website or Facebook

Govt to protect jobs and businesses with extra support

  • In-principle decision to extend wage subsidy to support businesses and protect jobs
  • Support will be nationwide in recognition of Auckland’s position in NZ economy and the impact of Level 2
  • Mortgage deferral scheme to be extended to support households

Questions on Covid announcement and lockdowns

So we are back in Covid-19 level 3 lockdown in Auckland and level 2 everywhere else.

I get that the Government and Ministry of Health are committed to try to stop any community spread of Covid and are erring on the side of caution, but there are questions I think we deserve answers to.

Jacinda Ardern said we must take a “precautionary” approach as no origin had been found, or link to isolation facilities or people who work at the border.

But how much caution is appropriate, given the substantial disruption the alert level increases impose?

An ‘urgent’ media conference was called last night at 9:15 pm, but when was the positive Covid test first known about? One person was tested twice, and then their family was tested. the first test result at least must have been known by yesterday’s daily report at 1 pm.

The first case was a person is in their 50s who lives in South Auckland. They have returned two positive results. They have no history of international travel.

Six family members who reside in the same household have been tested. Three returned positive results, three negative.

Ardern says she was first notified at 4pm yesterday. The first positive test result at least must have been known well before then. So why was she only notified then (if she is being honest with us)?

It looks like the public testing of Ashley Bloomfield at 1 pm may have been priming the population for an increase in testing. I suspect he must have known at that stage that there were new cases, or at least one new case.

if urgent action was justified why was the urgent announcement not until 9:15 (actually about 9:25) last night?

if urgent action was justified why have the lockdowns been delayed until midday today? The horse could have already bolted by then.

Auckland going to level 3 for two and a half days may be fair enough. But why does the rest of the country have to be affected? I wonder if this is being used as a sort of a drill.

Pretty much no one wants Covcid spreading here again, so drastic action may be justified to try to contain it, but I think the Government may find it harder to get public support and compliance if the announcements look to be too PR staged.

Overreactions and claiming urgency when news has been delayed to suit packaged announcements run the risk of annoying people.

I don’t want Covid to spread here, but I don’t want to be played by the authorities.

And Ardern will have to be very careful with how she manages this through the election campaign. her first priority is to keep the country as safe as reasonably possible but also as unrestricted as possible.

It would suit Labour if Ardern keeps in the media spotlight with Covid announcements while other parties are restricted from campaigning. She isn’t the only one involved in decision making, the non-political Ministry of Health are presumably making recommendations at least.

It will be challenging for Ardern to manage perceptions. If she oversteps there could be a public and voter backlashes.

But there are also challenges for her political opponents.

There have been a range of reactions to that. During what has been labelled ‘the Covid campaign’ this is also very political.

Why is the Auckland lockdown only for two and a half days? A 14 day minimum has been standard until now to make sure that Covid has been detected.

Health and statistics reasons for staying at level 2 for yonks, but…

“…it would take anywhere between 27 and 91 days of no new cases for there to be a 95% probability that the virus is gone from New Zealand”.

In practice it is getting increasingly difficult for the Government to justify staying at Covid-19 Alert level 2. Based on their current stance it could be another three weeks before they decide whether to change alert levels again, while daily we have been seeing no new cases for more than a week now, and we are down to just one (known) active case.

There are purely health reasons, based on statistics, for staying at level 2 for longer.

Siouxsie Wiles: Many want to go to alert level one right now. I get that. But we’d be fools to rush

There are several reasons why holding at alert level two for a little longer is the right thing to do. The main one is that a run of several days with no new cases doesn’t mean that there are no undetected active cases of Covid-19 out there. Recent modelling by Professor Nick Wilson and his colleagues at the University of Otago estimated it would take anywhere between 27 and 91 days of no new cases for there to be a 95% probability that the virus is gone from New Zealand.

The lower estimate was based on the assumption that most people showing symptoms would go and get tested. The higher estimate was based on fewer people getting tested. In other words, those estimates are the difference between shrugging of that runny nose as an allergy or going to get tested for Covid-19 just in case.

I get why so many people want to move to level one, I really do. These last few months have turned our lives and our economy upside down. Just as they have right around the globe. We’ve made big sacrifices and we feel we’ve earned it. But surely none of us wants to risk going back to alert level three. Alert level one will come. Let’s not squander what we’ve achieved.

That’s from an academic who presumably doesn’t have their job at risk.

But there is increasing pressure (with justification) for lowering the level for social reasons, for non-Covid health reasons, and particularly for economic and employment reasons.

More and more jobs are being lost (37.500 were lost in April), and when the 3 month wage subsidy runs out next month there are likely to be many more people who lose their jobs, and businesses who have to shut up shop.

As well as being devastating financially, that will impact on mental health and general health.

Health officials and academics with secure jobs and incomes may prefer to play ultra safe with Covid, but the rest of us have a lot of other things to consider and to be worried about.

The Government may be worried about what effect a second wave of Covid cases may have on their election chances.

They should also be worried about what effect a second wave of job losses and business failures might have, not just on their election chances, but also on the health of the country.

Government will wait to make next decision despite only 1 live Covid-case

Yesterday’s Ministry of health Covid-19 update showed that there have been no new cases for a week, and that there is now only now only case that is still ‘active’ (and that may have been active for a month so is nowhere near new).

But Grant Robertson says the Government will still wait a week and a half before making any decision about changing the current Level 2 restrictions.

On Monday Jacinda Ardern said that Cabinet would only re-evaluate Level 2 restrictions in two weeks time – that’s on 8 June, and a change to Level 1 may not happen for up to four weeks (to 22 June).

NZ Herald: Only one active case, but Grant Robertson won’t be drawn on lifting level 2 restrictions

New Zealand has just one active Covid-19 case today — but Finance Minister Grant Robertson refuses to be drawn on the possibility of lifting restrictions earlier than expected.

Robertson said New Zealand had done “incredibly well” in the fight against Covid-19.

The Government was flexible and would review alert level settings on June 8, he said, and reiterated Cabinet would look at moving to level 1 no later than June 22.

But he would not commit to action when asked whether having only one active case made it more likely that Cabinet might consider whether New Zealand was ready to move to level 1 earlier.

“The worst thing of all would be for New Zealand to move backwards again,” he told a media conference in Wellington.

No one wants to go back to Level 4, or even Level 3. But if people see ongoing restrictions as unjustified and ignore them, and don’t take seriously and future restrictions that poses greater risks.

The Government had wide and strong public support when we went into lockdown in March. But as the apparent dangers from Covid quickly reduced the public has tended to relax more quickly that Government restrictions were lifted.

There appears to be virtually no threat now. If the Government keeps restrictions on despite this they risk losing public support, which is likely to lead to people pushing boundaries or ignoring restrictions more.

Headlines like this from the ODT yesterday don’t help:  Police allowed gang tangi

Police allowed dozens of people to gather for the tangi of a Black Power member in Dunedin during lockdown.

As many as 50 people waited in a car park outside a funeral home for the tangi on April 30, blocked roads and later gathered at a gang pad, documents released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act show.

Many had travelled from outside Dunedin for the event.

Despite the breaches, police said in an internal email ‘‘trying to stop it will only create a worse situation for all’’.

There’s a real risk that if the Government is too cautious and pedantic in trying to prevent any cases at all it will create a worse situation if there is a second wave, and the public don’t care about restrictions that may be applied again and ignore them.

With next to no cases in the country now the public is largely moving forward while the Government retains restrictions and holds back business and employment.

Pressure increasing on lowering to Level 1 and trans-Tasman travel

Opening up travel between New Zealand and Australia has been proposed as both countries appear to have Covid-19 well under control. It looks unlikely to happen before New Zealand drops to Level 1 restrictions (whatever they may end up being), and Cabinet are not due to consider lowering to level 1 for a week and a half and it has been indicated (on Monday) it may be up to 4 weeks away.

Winton Peters has been talking about a Trans-Tasman bubble for over a month, and is now breaking ranks with Cabinet and says he wants one “yesterday”, but Jacinda Ardern has indicated that September is more likely

24 April: Trans-Tasman bubble could start ‘more quickly than we think’ – Peters

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says some businesses could be saved if the country creates a trans-Tasman bubble – and he’s open to starting on a state-by-state basis.

Fifty-five per cent of tourists who visit New Zealand come from Australia and the foreign affairs minister said it therefore made sense to start planning how a trans-Tasman travel bubble might work.

“So, it requires us to put our best minds together here and in Australia. I’ve spoken to the Foreign Minister in Australia about the need for us to start thinking about that now,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is on board and said it made sense to work with New Zealand on any relaxing of the border restrictions.

“I would have thought New Zealand would be the obvious candidate [for border openings] and that’s the nature of discussions we’ve had,” Morrison said.

Wednesday: Hopes to get trans-Tasman bubble flying by July

A high-powered group investigating opening up trans-Tasman travel amid the coronavirus pandemic hopes to put its proposal to politicians by early June, and get people travelling by the July school holidays.

The ‘Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group’ is made up of 11 government agencies, six airports, two airlines, and includes health experts and airline, airport and border agency representatives from both Australia and New Zealand.

Started by Auckland Airport, and co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), the team of 40 experts have been working for the past two weeks on recommendations for the re-opening of borders between Australia and New Zealand.

ANZLF co-chair Ann Sherry said the group wanted to focus on getting it right first on the Tasman before opening up to the Pacific and other destinations.

“We’ve got an early June objective to get recommendations back to government, but we’re testing it with government as we go along to make sure our thinking isn’t divergent at this stage of the process.”

Once the systems were considered by decision-makers, she was optimistic the trial might be completed in time for the July school holidays, she said.

Prime Minister Ardern was non-committal:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not set a date for how soon the bubble could be set up, saying both countries would need to be comfortable.

Ardern spoke with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday about the proposal, and said on Wednesday that there was enthusiasm on both sides of the Tasman.

The two countries were at different stages of easing restrictions, and New Zealand had had a bit more time to see how progress was going in stamping out Covid-19, she said.

“I’d say good work is taking place and it won’t be too long before we will be ready.”

Deputy Prime Minister Peters is pushing different aspirations:

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has broken rank with Labour, saying that quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel should already be allowed out of one side of his mouth, but has a different story out of the other.

However, Peters told a Trans-Tasman Business Circle briefing on Wednesday that opening the trans-Tasman border was urgent for both economies, but the two countries were not yet ready.

“If the decision was made today could we start tomorrow, I’m going to be honest and say no – but we’re working on it with the greatest of urgency now so that if the decision was made sooner rather than later, we’d be off and hopefully got every contingency foreseeable and imaginable covered,” Peters said.

Travel isn’t even allowed between states in Australia so opening up to New Zealand looks unlikely right now.

Yesterday in Parliament Winston Peters says he’d like to see trans-Tasman bubble implemented ‘yesterday’

National’s deputy leader Nikki Kaye questioned Mr Peters, who was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister in question time today, over recent disagreements within the Government on Covid-19 restriction timelines.

“Has the Foreign Minister (Winston Peters) advocated to her (Jacinda Ardern) or to the Cabinet to proceed faster around the trans-Tasman bubble,” Ms Kaye asked.

Mr Peters gave a direct response to the question.

“Take a wild guess,” he said with a wry smile.

Ms Kaye then pressed him whether he had pushed for a date that the travel bubble should come into force.

“Yesterday,” he replied before once again taking his seat.

But that may just be typical Peters posturing to an audience.

Margy Osmond, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, told the Sydney Morning Herald they expected it to commence “as early as September”.

When asked about this, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “that could be realistic”.

“I have been careful about putting down specific dates, but have been very focused on making sure we are ready, then we can move and we won’t be constrained by needing to do any administrative or logistical work at our borders,” she told media today.

Opening borders is dependent on moving to level 1.

ACT MP David Seymour has accused Peters of breaching Cabinet rules – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters accused of breaching Cabinet rules in revealing Jacinda Ardern’s views on level 1 move

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Peters – NZ First leader as well as Deputy Prime Minister – openly talked about conversations had in Cabinet.

Asked if New Zealand had been in level 2 for too long, he said: “My party made it very clear we thought that. And the Prime Minister has actually admitted that at the Cabinet meeting – she said it.”

According to the Cabinet Manual – the set of rules for ministers, enforced by the Prime Minister – ministers are not allowed to talk about what happens within Cabinet meetings.

“Discussion at Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings is informal and confidential,” it says.

“Ministers and officials should not … disclose or record the nature or content of the discussions or the views of individual ministers or officials expressed at the meeting itself.”

Seymour said that by saying what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Cabinet on live radio this morning, Peters was in breach of this rule.

It is up to the Prime Minister as to whether or not a minister is disciplined for breaking the Cabinet Manual rules.

Ardern has a record of turning a blind eye to what Peters and Shane Jones do.

Regardless of this political posturing, the public may be adding to the pressure to ease restrictions and get back closer to normal. There have been no new Covid cases in New Zealand for a week, and there are now only 8 active cases, all in the  Auckland region. The case for continuing restrictions will get increasingly hard for the Government to maintain.

The country has virtually eliminated Covid – but the big risk now is if it comes back into the country when border restrictions are eased.

And while Australian Covid numbers look proportionally similar to here The virus figure Australian officials are most worried about

…despite the country’s achievements in overcoming the worst of the virus, there is still one concerning figure looming over its recovery.

Figures released by the Department of Health show that 732, or about 10.3 per cent, of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country have been locally acquired with no contact identified.

This means hundreds of people have caught the virus in Australia but the source of the infection could not be found.

That will be a concern to health officials here, and the Government says they rely on the officials for advice on easing restrictions.

But when should we at least lower to level 1 restrictions here? There has been no community transmission since early April, and business concerns are growing.

NZ Herald: Jacinda Ardern’s wriggle room on moving to alert level 1 early

Cabinet is set to look at whether New Zealand should move to level 1 on June 22, but pressure is mounting to move earlier, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters saying it should have already happened.

Yesterday a top business restructuring expert, Grant Graham, whose firm KordaMentha partner makes money from insolvency work, pleaded for a move to level 1 to save “unjustifiable” job losses.

Yesterday was the sixth straight day of no new Covid-19 cases, and there have been no community transmission cases – whose branches are harder to trace and isolate – since the beginning of April.

It is possible that there will be no active cases in New Zealand by Cabinet’s D-day on June 22.

Meanwhile Stats NZ revealed that the number of filled jobs plummeted by a record 37,500 in April.

The decimated industries of tourism, hospitality, and events are hoping for an earlier move to level 1, where there will be no physical distancing requirements and no restrictions on numbers at social gatherings.

Ardern said on Monday that Cabinet would consider the settings of level 2 in 10 days, on June 8, and it will meet no later than on June 22 to look at whether the country could move to level 1.

She reiterated that timetable yesterday, saying it was based on Bloomfield’s advice.

But Cabinet could decide, based on his advice, to open up level 2 even more after June 8, or consider moving to level 1 before June 22.

“We have given us some space, just in case,” Ardern said yesterday.

Ardern seems to have one eye on health advice, hopefully she has one eye on deteriorating business news, and both eyes on the election.

June 22 looks a long way away as we move close to no active cases in the country.

Cabinet to decide on lockdown conditions today

Today Cabinet will consider whether to relax the conditions of Level 2 lockdown – of particular interest will be how much they relax the restrictions on group gatherings, especially for churches which are currently limited to 10. The pressure seems to have gone off the funeral limits which were upped to 50 after a public uproar.

It’s possible a decision will be made to lower to level 1 but that seems unlikely at this stage. A few days prior to lowering from both Level 4 and Level 3 the Government released amended conditions for the level we were moving to.

So perhaps at best today we may get an easing of level 2 conditions and a signal that level 1 may be considered in two weeks time.

There has been little change to the Covid numbers over the last week, with just one new case and a gradual reduction in actove cases. The totals as at yesterday:

As at 9.00 am, 24 May 2020
Total Change in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 1,154 0
Number of probable cases 350 0
Number of confirmed and probable cases 1,504 0
Number of recovered cases 1,456 1
Number of deaths 21 0
Number of active cases 27 -1
Number of cases currently in hospital 1 0

Lowering to Alert Level 2 on Thursday

By Thursday we will be switching down to Covid Alert Level 2 lockdown, sort of, as per the rules published last week but with a few tweaks.

(11:59 pm Wednesday is virtually Thursday).

Shops, cafes, restaurants, playgrounds and other public places will be able to reopen on Thursday.

Monday 18 May all children will be able to go back to school.

Thursday 21 May bars will be able to open with proper safety measures – but with a welcome clarification, a single person can serve multiple tables but must do everything on each of those tables (take orders, server, clear up). Group bookings limited to 10.

If the primary purpose is for dining they can open this week, if the primary purpose is for drinking they can’t open until next week. Odd distinction.

Social gatherings at home limited to 10 people, also tangis, funerals and weddings, and also religious gatherings and church services – seems to be a new tweak.

Jacinda Ardern has just announced this along with another speech.

This will be reviewed in two weeks, with an indication gathering numbers may be tweaked some more but staying on level 2.

“A long road to full recovery”.

Masks won’t be required on public transport.

All going to plan things will keep opening up after two weeks, and another two weeks.

Alert Level 2 details (subject to the variations announced).

Ardern’s announcement (I’m not going to try to precise, a lot of waffle in it)

More details probably to come.

Alert level decision today

Today Cabinet will make a decision on whether to lower us to Covid Alert Level 2 or not. That will be announced at a 4 pm news conference.

There seems to be a growing public desire to loosen the restrictions after 6 weeks in fairly strict lockdown, with an increasing number of people going on walks and doing other activities in sometimes quite crowded public situations.

The revised rules for Level 2 were announced last week – see Alert Level 2 information.

But there is some talk of the need to strengthen some of the restrictions, and to phase in the change to level 2. From NZ Herald: Cabinet meets to decide if New Zealand is ready for alert level 2

If Cabinet decides the country is ready to come out of level 3, New Zealand could move to alert level 2 as early as Wednesday.

That’s misleading. 11:59 pm on Wednesday is effectively Thursday for everyone.

And if level 2 is greenlighted, one of the country’s top epidemiology experts says the Government should consider making masks on public transport compulsory.

“This would give us another line of defence,” Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said.

Baker supported a phased approach to level 2.

“Thinking logically, you might begin with the most controlled environments, like workplaces and schools, where risk can be minimised.”

Then, once officials are sure level 2 was showing signs of success, the Government could loosen restrictions on places like bars and nightclubs, he said.

But the Level 2 rules have already been announced. If they were changed again, and in effect a level 2.5 was introduced, that would be confusing and would be likely to be even more ignored than the current Level 3.

He told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking today that complacency and rule-breaking were common right now.

They would become more common if they start dicking around with Level 2 rules at this stage.

Losoening restrictions to soon or too fast do raise the risks of Covid re-establishing itself. The virus has proven to spread quickly and easily.

But if the Government decides to keep us in Level 3 for longer they risk losing the support of the public, who willingly did the level 4 lockdown thing in the interests of their safety and public safety, but now Covid looks to be under control and very low risk to nearly everyone it will be hard for even Jacinda Ardern to convince people of the need not to relax some more.

We will find out this afternoon, but I think that Government would have to have a much stringer and more specific reason to not lower the lockdown level than “we must stay the course for another week (or two)” and other overused phrases.

This sort of headline won’t help keep the public on side: Alert levels two and three could be in place for ‘moderate amount of time’ – obviously that’s possible, especially level 2, but talk of an extended period on level 3 is unlikely to be popular.