Political rival David Seymour may be demanding greater certainty on lockdown durations but scientific experts are praising the Government's alert level 4 lockdown extension this afternoon.
The Act Party leader says today's extension of the nationwide level 4 lockdown shows the Government wasn't prepared and he has attacked the graduated extension as a "drip feed" and "more spin".
"Jacinda Ardern knew all along that the virus takes eight to 10 days to peak but led us to believe that we might come out of this early," Seymour said.
However, University of Auckland microbiologist Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles was among several scientific experts who endorsed the decision to have a full 14-day cycle of national lockdown before opening up some of the country to level 3.
"The decision to keep the whole of New Zealand at alert level 4 for a full 14-day infection cycle will help ensure that the edges of the outbreak have been identified and that it is confined to the Auckland region," Wiles said.
The reactions come after the Prime Minister announced all of New Zealand would remain in the highest state of lockdown until 11.59pm on Tuesday.
At that point, Auckland and Northland will remain at level 4, while it is intended the rest of the country will move to level 3.
For Auckland, the prospect is another fortnight at level 4. It is yet to be seen how long Northland will stay at the same level.
Wiles said if there are transmission chains that have not been identified or contained before alert level drops "we would risk spending Christmas under some level of restrictions".
"It is important to remember that the lag time between cases being infectious, developing symptoms, and getting tested can make people feel overconfident that the outbreak has been contained when in reality there are still one or two loose ends," Wiles said.
"With Delta, we cannot afford to have any loose ends."
University of Canterbury Professor Michael Plank is an expert in mathematical modelling of complex biological systems and said moving areas outside of Auckland to level 2 at this stage could lead to an "explosive outbreak".
"Some may be frustrated that the South Island is being held at level 3 rather than level 2," Plank said.
"But while there is a large and active outbreak in Auckland, movement of essential supplies around New Zealand creates an ongoing risk that a case could leak out of the Auckland region.
"At level 2, this could lead to an explosive outbreak. Level 3 provides a safety net so that, if an outbreak does crop up outside Auckland it won't be able to grow as quickly.
"If Auckland case numbers start to come down, other regions that are clear of Covid may be able to drop to level 2, but that will take time."
Seymour said the lockdown extension showed that the Government had not done scenario planning recommended by experts or trained enough contact tracers before the outbreak.
"The big question now, is how will New Zealand be any better prepared for future outbreaks under this Government? How will the Government use its time now better than it used the past 18 months?"
"New Zealanders deserve certainty, not being teased with freedom only to have their hopes dashed one drip-fed extension at a time. We all need certainty to plan for our businesses, know how long we'll be home-schooling and to organise our lives."
Seymour said there should be an explanation as to why the South Island wasn't prioritised for testing and tracing. Doing so could have allowed it to be released earlier, he said.
"Unable to trace and test to the edge of an outbreak, we instead have to rely on a full 14-day cycle to eliminate the possibility of cases we don't know about."
Seymour said the current 108 wastewater testing sites was up from 26 at the beginning of the outbreak. He said it meant there was little data from the beginning of the outbreak and suggested the Government hadn't foreseen the need for wastewater testing.
"The Government needs to let us know what steps it is taking so we don't have to endure a nationwide level 4 lockdown for two weeks every time there is a case."
Auckland mayor Phil Goff's reaction
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the lockdown had "high costs" for Aucklanders and asked for the Government to provide assistance to the region hit hardest by the latest outbreak.
"The Government's announcement that it is likely that Auckland will spend a month at alert level 4 is not welcome news. However, it will be accepted by most as being necessary in the circumstances of the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant across Auckland," Goff said.
"All of us want to be back at level 1 as soon as possible. The lockdown has high costs to disruption of life and to workers and businesses not able to earn an income.
"However, what has happened in Sydney is a lesson that we have to take on board. To be effective, the lockdown needs to be swiftly implemented, be a hard lockdown and to stay in place until the spread of the virus has been suppressed.
"A partial lockdown incurs costs without being able to realise the benefits that we all enjoyed living relatively normally without the virus taking lives, causing large numbers of people to be ill and overwhelming our hospital system.
"It's great that the rest of New Zealand will move down to level 3 next week and we celebrate their being able to do so.
"Auckland's role as New Zealand's gateway city, however, means that it has endured longer and more frequent restrictions and lockdowns than the rest of the country.
"It will be important for the Government to recognise this and provide whatever assistance it can to help people in the region, who make up a third of the country's population, to get through the costs that the lockdown will impose on them.
"Ongoing support such as the wage subsidy, assistance to Auckland Transport, which has to keep essential services going without normal fairs to offset those costs, and ensuring vaccination in the Auckland region is carried out as quickly as possible are among the ways the government can help."
Mental health experts
Boredom, frustration, and temptation are likely to be the new psychological challenges an extended lockdown brings, clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland said.
Sutherland - who is also a Victoria University of Wellington professor - said unlike last year's nationwide lockdown the novelty had largely disappeared and people faced days of doing the same thing with the same faces in the same environment.
"This frustration and irritability has the potential to strain already frayed relationships and lead to the temptation to break the rules."
Aucklanders may be further tempted to break alert-level restrictions as they saw other parts of the country moving out of level 4, he said.
"Whilst in 2020 the focus was on helping people manage their anxiety, the focus of 2021 may well be on helping people deal with their growing levels of irritability and frustration," Sutherland said.
Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Leeann Watson said the extension of level 4 was "disappointing", although it was positive to know the country south of Auckland would be moving to level 3.
Watson said 90 per cent of businesses could operate safety at level 3.
"We also know that in lockdown Treasury has forecast it to cost the country $1.45 billion per week - and that's just the economic impact, not to mention the emotional toll on many people.
"While the Government absolutely has to weigh any decision-making with the impact on public health, the reality is that ongoing lockdowns cannot be part of our long-term future."
She said there needed to be new ways found to operate safely and to speed up vaccinations.
"While the Delta variant poses new risks and requires a new way of thinking, we can still take the lessons we have learned over the past 12 months along with the improvements in technology and come up with a different plan.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said South Island hospitality businesses would be disappointed.
"We urge all of those hospitality businesses that are doing it hard right now, to stay strong and seek out help. Our most recent feedback from members shows that whilst they largely support the level 4 lockdown, 75 per cent of those businesses wouldn't be financially viable after two weeks at this level."
She said several members had only just made final repayments on loans from last year's lockdowns and were "devastated" to be "in that position of starting the process again".