Covid-19: ‘We’re not in the clear yet’, epidemiologist warns NZ

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Professor Michael Baker
University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker ... the case of the Sydney tourist in Wellington has exposed "major gaps" in NZ's system. Image: Luke Pilkinton-Ching​/RNZ/Otago University

RNZ News

It will take a few more days before New Zealand can be said to have dodged a bullet over the latest covid-19 scare, an epidemiologist says.

University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told RNZ Sunday Morning it was a close call.

“We’re not in the clear yet. That will take another few days of no cases.”

He said the visitor — who was in multiple indoor venues with hundreds of other people — had the more infectious Delta variant of covid-19.

“This could have turned into multiple super-spreading events.”

He said the case of the tourist exposed “major gaps” in the system.

“A major mode of transmission is by aerosol. The virus doesn’t care about the 2-metre rule. We know it only takes fleeting contact indoors to get this infection.”

Upgrade needed
Baker said counterparts abroad were saying New Zealand needed to upgrade its approach to dealing with covid-19.

“The virus has changed markedly and our response needs to change with it.”

He said the Pfizer vaccine would help put the country in a more “secure situation when our population is highly vaccinated later this year”.

“We need to upgrade the measures we take when there is concern about local outbreaks anywhere in Australia.

“One of the obvious lessons from this is to just look at our criteria for suspending travel from the hot spots in Australia or anywhere and do it more quickly.”

Other measures like pre-departure testing could be included for New Zealanders stuck in Australia.

He said the new variants of the virus were “unforgiving”.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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