Auckland, which serves as the centre of the recent Covid outbreaks in New Zealand is reported to still remain in lockdown level 3 for two weeks even after its high vaccination rate.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern defends the decision by stating that it is based on the advice of health experts who predict that easing restrictions may lead to a surge in cases again. They are also preventing the possible exhaustion of the health system in the area.
Currently, the city has one of the highest levels of vaccination in the area given that 70% are already fully vaccinated. It climbs to 89% when those inoculated with their first dose is counted. The whole country currently has only 55% of the population fully vaccinated and 82% with at least their first dose.
Violent reactions are to be expected from the decision given the occurrence of a lockdown protest in October led by Destiny Church’s Brian Tamaki. They questioned the need for vaccination and the validity of the lockdowns.
A qualifier for easing of restrictions in relation to the vaccination levels have not been officially set by the government. They said that they would need more solid statistics to back this decision. Ardern stated that they are currently targeting avoiding a higher case of hospitalizations especially for the vulnerable parts of the population.
She further elaborates that they would create a framework for their pandemic protocols by creating a vaccination target which will serve as a potential exit from the current situation. She also said that they are currently not planning to have any “circuit breaker” lockdowns anymore.
This is a contrast to advice by health experts to create a level 4 lockdown to prevent the rise in virus transmission. This is to ensure that authorities will be able to contact trace properly and that there will be adequate space in their healthcare facilities to handle patients. They also state that it will be hard to go back to a zero active case situation as the numbers and the nature of the virus is hard to control.
There have also been questions about the use of a “traffic light” framework for planning the next steps in controlling the disease. Some health experts consider it inadequate to respond to any possible surprises in the transmission of the virus later on. They also state that introducing a new system may confuse citizens.
Currently, New Zealand has a total number of 2,005 cases. These cases have been traced and controlled by the authorities but there are some gaps in their knowledge specifically with 60 of the cases.