The Covid-19 traffic light framework has outlived its usefulness.
This is according to a top New Zealand epidemiologist Michael Baker, who tells the Front Page podcast that he would like to see the country move on to a more straightforward system.
"People may say we've had enough of frameworks, but we do need a common language," says Baker.
The Otago University-based infectious disease expert says we could draw on other examples also designed to keep society safe from harm.
"When you drive through the countryside in summer, you have a big sign that you see regularly, which has a five-point scale about the risk of fire... We need something as simple as that to give you an idea of the level of risk. And the red zone should really be reserved for when we are at risk of overwhelming our health system."
Baker's comments come amid reports that the Government considered axing the traffic light system altogether when it next reviews its covid settings.
At least one Ministry is also consulting on ditching mask mandates in most settings, raising concern among the more vulnerable members of society.
Baker says the Government needs to put systems in place to ensure that we have the means to respond in the event of the next uptick of cases.
"It's all very well to say 'let's relax controls now', but what happens when we get the next wave of Covid-19, which, based on past performance is very likely - and this could be another sub-variant or entirely new variant.
"We need a very responsive alert level system that can co-ordinate how we respond when case numbers start to go up again."
Despite the ongoing risk of Covid-19, Baker doesn't think we'll need to use lockdowns again to control the virus.
"We've got lots of other tools we can use instead of lockdowns," says Baker, warning that this still isn't a moment to be complacent.
"It would be naive to think that everything will be fine because case numbers are dropping and it's all over. It is absolutely not all over. Some people say it will be great when it's endemic, but some of the worst diseases on the planet are endemic in terms of infections, including malaria, HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis."
The other risk hanging over this is that we are only now starting to see the impact of long Covid on society.
"For every thousand cases of Covid, one person will die and we think that roughly 100 will get long Covid effects," says Baker.
"We don't know how long that will persist, so we really want to keep case numbers down."
Baker says that symptoms include multi-organ damage affecting the brain, heart, lungs and other tissues around the body.
Researchers have also identified post-acute infection syndrome, which leads to issues like chronic fatigue syndrome, which can be disabling.
The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald, available to listen to every weekday from 5am.