New Zealand can take over other OECD countries by the end of this year if Kiwis keep up the level of vaccination rates the Government has seen so far this lockdown.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson also told Newstalk ZB the more New Zealanders who are vaccinated will mean less chance of level 4 lockdowns happening in the future.
The goal was to ease border restrictions but that, along with working out how to live with Covid, could only happen if the country had a high vaccination rate.
“We want to move to different barriers at the border, where we were looking at low, medium, high risk countries and that if you had been to a low risk country you could come and go pretty easily.
“It’s about giving ourselves options for 2022. I think the thing that we are all getting our heads around, is that Covid is going to be part of our future, and that is really a question of how we’re going to manage it, but vaccination is critical, other public health measures will be needed.
“But these kind of lockdowns are what we want to avoid and we will be able to once we get that vaccination level up.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced 83 new Covid cases today, bringing the country’s total to 511.
Of those cases, one was in Wellington and the remainder in Auckland.
There are seven sub-clusters, the largest of which involves the Mangere church with 237 while the Birkdale cluster has 68.
Robertson said New Zealand wouldn’t run out of vaccine.
“We won’t run out of vaccine. We have orders coming and by the end of October we will have everything in terms of the vaccination that we need.”
The country received a delivery of around 320,000 doses a few days ago but if the country got to the point where it was tight, they would simply manage the maximum amount of doses given out until it was.
As for New Zealand having the lowest rate of vaccinations in the OECD and whether we would shake off that title, Robertson said “absolutely”.
“That’s the job in front of New Zealanders from here. If we keep going around the rates we are now we will be moving well ahead of other countries.
“This is something that when people think, ‘well what can I do?’, this is what you can do.
“Not just get vaccinated yourself but have that conversation with a friend or family member whose a little bit hesitant, because yes, I think the opportunity is right there for New Zealand to have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
“If we can finish the latter part of this year with the vast bulk of eligible people vaccinated that is going to give tremendous options for how we manage going forward from here and protect the gains we’ve had.”
As for there being no cases in the Coromandel or South Island, Robertson said that was “pretty remarkable in many ways”.
“What we know is that of the couple that went there, one was fully vaccinated and the other appears to be someone who doesn’t shed the virus. Not everybody who gets it spreads it.”
As for the South Island, that was a case of the level 4 lockdown “doing its job”.
“It cut that movement off straight away.”
For the rest of New Zealand moving into level 3 this week, that would mean a higher priority and focus on mask use and physical distancing at those businesses.
Meanwhile, asked whether the country had possibly plateaued in terms of Covid numbers – with there just being one more than yesterday – epidemiologist Michael Baker told Newstalk ZB “it certainly looks like it”.
The reproduction rating looked like it was now below one, at 0.8, which was “real positive news” for Aucklanders as they were doing their bit to stamp out Delta.
The number of cases just proved how more spreadable Delta was and the country was put into lockdown “in the nick of time”.
Given how contagious Delta is, Baker wanted to see mask use mandatory at level 3 and possibly 2 as well.
He said the alert levels weren’t designed for the Delta strain.
“Of course we want to get to level 2, but we have to change those alert levels because they were designed for a different virus.”
The big issue for Covid, especially Delta, was its aerosol spread as opposed to surface and outdoors.
“It doesn’t transmit easily outdoors. I think some countries they have gone to a policy where you wear your mask all day but the big problem is indoor environments.
“I’m not sure if we need to require masks outdoors.”
Baker said he was yet to see any studies or documentation that Covid had been caught from a surface.
“If you think of all the effort that went to cleaning things early on in the pandemic, and basic hygiene is still important … we’ve got no examples of surfaces ever transmitting this virus.
“When I hear people say we’re closing for several days for a deep clean, I say ‘well what are you actually trying to do with that?’
“It’s been really over-emphasised I think at the expense of thinking about indoor air.”
Baker said that’s because the virus latched onto receptors in the upper airway and it might be that it had to be suspended in the air to meet those surfaces, so simply touching a surface that might be slightly contaminated, if it was transferred into the mouth it may not get to those specific receptors.
“It hasn’t been documented and that makes me think it must be quite a rear mode of transmission.”
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