A return to alert level 1 could be just two weeks away if trends continue, epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says.
However, Delta-enhanced restrictions would probably still be in force at the lowest level.
The whole of the country outside Auckland woke up to level 2 restrictions yesterday, and continuing reductions in new infections were likely to lead to further alert level drops.
University of Otago epidemiologist Baker said that if things went well in Auckland, the rest of the country might be ready to move to Level 1 in a couple of weeks.
”If we see Auckland in single digits in the next few days and no unexpected cases for several days, then we’d be starting to feel that things are under control in Auckland and they’d be moving down a level.
“Then I think at that point the rest of the country could move down a level as well.”
There were 15 new community cases of Covid-19 yesterday, all in Auckland.
Baker said it still made sense to keep the rest of the country outside Auckland at the same level, rather than allowing the South Island to loosen restrictions sooner, though.
He said a truck driver, for example, moving goods from Auckland could then travel anywhere in the country.
It was likely that when Level 1 did arrive it would look different from how people remembered it last time, particularly when it came to mask use.
With the Delta variant prone to airborne transmission, masks would be necessary for large-scale indoor events.
Some hospitality venues had voiced reservations about the 50-patron indoor limits facing their establishments at level 2, but the reason for the limit was to minimise the risks of a future super-spreader event.
“You have to see the world from the virus’ point of view.
“It wants to infect as many of us as rapidly as possible. That’s where it gets its edge.”
Limits were not designed to designate a safe number of people that could fit in a space, but rather to restrict the number of people that could be infected at a location.
However, University of Canterbury mathematical modeller Professor Michael Plank said people should be prepared for a longer stint at level 2.
“If Auckland’s still at alert level 3, that means there’s still a reasonable level of risk and that means there would still be a risk of cases cropping up in other parts of the country.”
Plank agreed that level 1 was likely to have additional safeguards.
As well as extended mask mandates, there could be a continuation of mandatory record-keeping, and additional requirements for high-risk venues and large gatherings.
The region awoke to level 2 conditions yesterday morning, and in Dunedin there was a fairly sedate start to the new freedoms.
The queues for services that had punctuated some previous alert level reductions were not widely evident, and moderate numbers of people were out and about in the city.
Some shoppers indulged in a delayed haircut.
Headquarters managing director Jamie Copland said her hairdressers were ”pretty exhausted” but were thrilled to be able to accept customers again.
There had been a steady stream of clients throughout the day, and a general acceptance of the requirement to wear a mask during a haircut.
Otago Museum did not open yesterday, instead taking an extra day to ensure it was prepared to meet the level 2 settings.
It had contracted Professor Miguel Quinones-Mateu, of the University of Otago microbiology and immunology department, to advise on its preparations.
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