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Aucklanders are embracing fresh coffee and fast food as they welcome life in level 3.
After five long weeks of restrictive alert level 4 lockdown, residents of our biggest city have today emerged to new relative freedoms of takeout coffee, takeaway food and contactless shopping.
But director general of health Ashley Bloomfield admits he lost sleep over the decision to move alert levels and he expects to see up to 60 additional community Covid-19 cases emerge in the near future.
An expert warns that dropping alert levels now is dangerous, and any wrong move could see cases explode and Auckland plunged back into level 4 lockdown.
Greasy food lovers starved of their favourite takeaway meal choked drive-through outlets from early this morning to get their long-awaited fix.
About 80 cars were in line for McDonald's on Lincoln Rd in West Auckland just after 12.30am.
The line was so long it filled the car park and was spilling on to Lincoln Rd.
"We just came for a feed," one McDonald's lover told the Herald.
"The masses will be out tomorrow so we thought just come in when we can, while everyone is sleeping."
A man who gave his name as Kemo was second in the queue at McDonald's Kelston this morning.
He'd been lined up since about 6am and 30 minutes later had got no further in his quest for McDonald's. He was holding out for fries and items from the breakfast menu and hot chocolates for his kids.
"At least now there is something different on the menu."
Other punters queued outside bakeries for fresh pastries as the sun rose over Tāmaki Makaurau or took in a spot of contactless shopping as businesses that had been in hibernation for weeks tentatively reopened.
But with new freedoms come new risks.
Experts warn there are dangers in moving to level 3 while cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant continue to emerge in the community - some of them still unlinked to known clusters.
Bloomfield says the country might not return to zero Covid cases - but that won't necessarily stop a return to level 1.
Asked if there were any reservations about moving Auckland out of level 4, Bloomfield told the Breakfast show these decisions were not always straightforward and he had lost sleep.
The advice he gave to Cabinet was based on all the data and advice passed on to him by health officials and medical experts.
The advice was that it was safe and it was time for Auckland to move down to level 3.
Bloomfield told RNZ the country wouldn't necessarily need zero cases to get to level 1.
"I don't think a level 1 scenario with Delta necessarily means a series of zero cases, because what we've got now, of course, is vaccination.
"We may not get back to zero, but the important thing is we're going to keep finding any infections and basically continue to contact trace, test, isolate people."
Bloomfield reiterated that more than 90 per cent of people would need to be vaccinated before officials could be confident of moving to level 1, but "misinformation" circulating on social media was affecting numbers.
Elimination of Covid was about not tolerating the virus and working hard to fight it, Bloomfield told TVNZ.
He compared the virus to a fire; saying now was about trying to find the last embers and stamping them out.
Speaking on the AM Show, Bloomfield said due to its transmissibility, Delta spread "quite liberally" within households.
He expected to see about 50 or 60 cases coming through in the next couple of weeks, mainly from close contacts.
"It's clear that there has been a bit of interaction between households and I dare say that wouldn't be unique to the ones where we've got cases. Level 3 though is still very strict," he said.
Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy told TVNZ the country could still eliminate the virus while in level 3.
"Definitely - it's going to require us to play our part."
Hendy said two weeks could just be enough for us to "wrap this cluster up".
The worst case scenario would be to see the cluster continue to grow and develop into high numbers during level 3.
He warned that could lead to officials moving Auckland back up to level 4 for a period of time again.
Hendy said seeing the number of unlinked cases starting to drop was a positive sign.
It was also fantastic to see the high number of people turning out to get vaccinated, he said.
Fourteen new positive cases in the community were announced yesterday, one of them linked to the Black Power gang member who was released from Mt Eden Corrections facility and allowed to travel to a bail address in Hauraki while infected with the virus.
Bloomfield said this morning there were no new infections identified overnight, but contact tracers are still scrambling to ring fence the latest outbreak and confirm whether there is any unidentified community transmission.