This story originally appeared on RNZ and is republished with permission
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce Cabinet’s decision on when Auckland can shift from alert level 2 as well as the plan for the rest of the country.
Watch the media conference live here:
The prime minister will be joined at the briefing by Health Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
The Auckland region is at alert level 2.5 which is due to expire on Sunday. At present Aucklanders can travel outside the region, though social gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people, with 50 allowed for authorised funerals and tangihanga. The rest of the country is at level 2.
Two new cases of Covid-19 were announced yesterday: only one was a community case and it has been linked to the Auckland cluster.
Ardern has warned that may not guarantee a lowering of alert levels.
Some public health experts have argued that the country needs to have a more graduated alert level system as it continues its bid to eliminate the virus.
Among them is the University of Otago’s professor of public health Nick Wilson who believes the system [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/425209/alert-levels-need-to-reflect-emerging-science-public-health-expert-nick-wilson should be refined to reflect the risks of indoor gatherings and the need for widespread mask use, including in restaurants, bars and gyms.
A recent Japanese study estimated the risk of Covid-19 transmission is 20 times greater at indoor venues compared with outdoors, he told Morning Report.
“So that highlights the need to focus on these indoor environments where people are close together and that’s where mask use is critical,” Wilson said.
For outdoor areas people might not need to wear masks or even worry much about social distancing.
Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy, whose modelling has guided the government’s response, said it was too early to tell the true impact of the current alert level.
“It would wise to figure out how well the current settings have worked before we change them,” he said.