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Covid-19: Virus will 'sweep' through Auckland after level 3 loosening, modeller warns

But the Government is standing firm on its approach to restrictions in the nation's commercial capital.

A top Covid modeller has warned the virus will “sweep” through Auckland because more than a million people – and every household – are already connected following the loosening of level 3 restrictions last week.

But the Government is standing firm on its policy recalibration in the nation’s commercial capital which began last Wednesday, arguing that the experience of lengthy lockdowns in Australian states during the year shows that the holding on to harsh restrictions for too long is counterproductive.

“New South Wales saw a spike in cases, despite not lowering the restrictions because people stopped following them to some extent,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says lockdowns have limitations. (File photo)

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says lockdowns have limitations. (File photo)

Hipkins’ comments on the limitations of lockdown came as Dr Dion O’Neale, a principal investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini, warned New Zealand was now standing on the edge of a Covid precipice, with a situation that looked very similar to Melbourne up to six weeks ago.

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“[Cases were] Growing from tens of daily cases and over the course of about a month and a half you end up with thousands of daily cases, he said. “They had a day of nearly 2000 cases.”

There were 55 new community cases reported on Wednesday – two of which were in Waikato, while the rest were in Auckland.

Cases have been steadily tracking up since late September.

Senior ministers now privately acknowledge that the daily Covid case numbers are now likely to get a lot worse before they get better.

But O’Neale warned young Māori and Pasifika remain the most at risk of infection, even with vaccination efforts at full-force, as it is two weeks after a second dose before someone is fully protected from the virus. Well over a million Aucklanders will already be connected.

“It’s young people who are most recent to get access to the vaccine, they’re also the people who are most mobile, are interacting the most, are most likely to be essential workers or need to go into work, to be vulnerably employed, and they are the people who are least protected,” he said.

The Government has ruled out using lockdowns to stop the virus from spreading in Auckland.

Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Government has ruled out using lockdowns to stop the virus from spreading in Auckland.

“That is where you wil have all the transmission and then it will sweep through the populations.”

The Ministry of Health said its surge workforce could cope with up to 1000 new cases a day and up to 6000 contacts.

But O’Neale warned the Government will run out of contact tracing capacity with around 100 new daily cases.

Allowing for six contacts per case was “very low” as most people would have much more than this over their 10-day infection period, he added.

Meanwhile, Covid has been found in wastewater across Auckland, east, west and north of the city, with 15 of the 19 testing sites detecting the virus, according to ESR.

The plan to relax Auckland’s level 3 lockdown despite ongoing Delta infections was announced last Monday.

Cabinet will review the dates for the second and third steps, which involve more retail and hospitality venues opening under conditions, every week.

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