As life in alert level 2 nears its second full week, the country waits to see if there is any indication that restrictions will be relaxed even further in the coming days.

And despite there being just a single confirmed Covid-19 case reported in New Zealand in the past week, there is still debate about whether or not it is still too early to move to the next step - alert level 1.

One Health epidemiologist Dr Joanna McKenzie backs the Government's staged approach and although the results have been promising, now is not the time to relax the rules, she said.

"From the public health point of view, we would like to see more time."


The confirmed case reported in the past seven days, on Friday, is a household contact of an earlier case linked to the St Margaret's rest home cluster in Te Atatu Peninsula, West Auckland.

Coronavirus Covid 19: What's the difference between level 1 and 2?
Covid 19 coronavirus: What needs to happen before alert level 1 as Kiwis back Labour in the polls
Covid 19 coronavirus: Cabinet to decide today whether to increase gathering size; 2 bars closed
Covid 19 coronavirus: Two bars shut down overnight for level 2 breaches

Dr McKenzie said that single case showed that there were still traces of Covid-19 within the community.

It also highlighted the long tail of the disease and therefore the need for people to continue to be extra careful when out and about when the rules were relaxed even further in alert level 1.

Three ambulances leave St Margaret's rest home in Te Atatu, West Auckland. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Three ambulances leave St Margaret's rest home in Te Atatu, West Auckland. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

"There is still residual infection in the community - especially among those who are infected and don't know it.

"What is happening is [there's a long tail] in the household cases that have trickled down to others.

"We need to make sure where we know that they are infected - I don't think they should be participating in level 1."

'It only takes one person to start a cluster'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to reveal more about moves to relax rules that limit the number of people allowed to gather at home and other establishments at alert level 2. The current rule is limited to 10 people.


McKenzie said she felt that limit is still sensible at this time.

For University of Canterbury epidemiologist Associate Professor Arindam Basu, however, the positive trend in New Zealand meant it was ready to open things up again.

But he could not say what the best number of people allowed to gather should be.

"It's an opportune time that the rules are relaxed," he said.

"But that is with a caveat - and the caveat is that it only takes one person to become infected to start a cluster."

Any move to allow greater numbers of people to come together needed to be handled strictly through contact-tracing mechanisms - and that called for people to be completely up front and honest about their health.


"It's entirely up to a person to tell the truth."

Subscribe to Premium The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website