Aucklanders will learn tomorrow whether tougher alert level restrictions will stay put, or if they will have more freedom to gather, but a public health expert is urging officials to keep the city at current alert levels for now.
Compared to the rest of the country's alert level 2 status, Auckland has been at a tailor-made "alert level 2.5" since August 31, as a step down from level 3 restrictions. It limits the amount of people allowed at gatherings to no more than 10, while outside of Auckland gatherings of up to 100 are allowed.
. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said if a change is made it will take effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday September 16.
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The strict controls on Aucklanders are an attempt to try to slow a community outbreak of Covid-19 that has now infected 176 people. Two new cases of Covid-19 were announced today, one is an isolated international arrival, and the other is a health worker at the Jet Park quarantine facility where infected members of the Auckland cluster are being cared for.
University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker says it's too soon to drop alert levels next week, given new cases are rolling in each day. He wants Auckland kept at level 2.5 for at least another two weeks.
However, he believed it may be safe for the rest of New Zealand to potentially move down in restrictions to an alert level 1.5, but said freeing Auckland up soon would be a mistake.
The latest outbreak in Auckland was still relatively new compared to the first outbreak of the virus in March, Baker said.
"Remembering the first took three months from the first case, to really saying we've got rid of the virus entirely.
"We've only had this outbreak for a month, so I think on this downward elimination stage we just need to be very patient."
Keeping Auckland at 2.5 would allow more time for potential undiscovered cases to be identified, Baker said.