'Discouraging' - 82 new Covid cases; experts suggest lockdown rules may need tightening; 'curve is bending but not fast enough'

Author
Cherie Howie, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 28 Aug 2021, 9:36AM

'Discouraging' - 82 new Covid cases; experts suggest lockdown rules may need tightening; 'curve is bending but not fast enough'

Author
Cherie Howie, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 28 Aug 2021, 9:36AM

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Additional reporting: Thomas Coughlan

There are 82 new Covid community cases today - and an expert modeller is predicting a tough week ahead for the country, while another says level-four lockdown rules may need to be further tightened.

The 82 number is the highest daily figure in the outbreak so far and brings the total number of cases to 429 - 415 in Auckland and 14 in Wellington.

Twenty-five of the cases are in hospital – 23 are in a stable condition on a ward and two cases are in a stable condition in ICU. Twelve are in Auckland City Hospital, 11 are in Middlemore, one is in North Shore Hospital, and one is in a Wellington regional hospital.

One expert modeller says the curve is bending but not fast enough, and another has raised the prospect of selectively closing some supermarkets as part of a tightening of level-four lockdown rules.

We are going to have to come up with something more - expert

Covid-19 modeller Rodney Jones, who has advised the Government on the pandemic, said that if cases were peaking above 80 a day then it was likely the country would have a "terrible week" for cases next week.

"We had a terrible week last week - this looks like next week will not be any better," Jones said.

He said it was clear the country was "on a different path" and that case growth was exponential. "When we were at 30 [cases a day] we were on a different path - this is just a continuation of that path."

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield optimistically said this week that case growth was not exponential. Jones said the latest numbers proved him wrong.

"It is not right to say it is not exponential anything with an R value above one is an exponential rise in cases," Jones said.

Jones could not answer when the daily case numbers would start plateauing.

"It's the wrong question. You can't ask that question with Delta - Delta behaves differently. It works differently to the wild form. It has shorter waves. You have a day or two where you think you are getting on top of it. Then you get hit by a bad day," he said.

"The curve is bending but not fast enough."

Jones said the Government should not make the mistake other countries had made by focusing on whether transmission was only occurring within households.

"The point is Delta is ferocious and it represents another challenge. We are going to have to come up with something more," Jones said.

He said the Government could look at things like diverting all vaccines to South Auckland to ensure that at least everyone there had one dose.

University of Auckland Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy said the Government may need to look at tightening alert level-4 restrictions if the outbreak did not plateau soon.

This could include shutting some supermarkets and other essential businesses.

"If it doesn't plateau over the next few days then we may need to be thinking about tightening alert level-4 restrictions. The real worry is if we continue to see spread through businesses that are operating."

Hendy suggested thinking about "selectively closing supermarkets".

He suggested rapid testing should be available in New Zealand as it is overseas.

He said Saturday's case numbers were "discouraging". "Obviously we would like to see these numbers start to come down."

However there was some good news. "It does seem like the growth in cases is coming from known clusters - that is a positive.

"While it is still in known clusters, you can't say it's out of control," Hendy said.

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