Coronavirus: New Zealand on track to shift to alert level 1, but not yet - expert

We're moving closer towards elimination but we're not there yet.
We're moving closer towards elimination but we're not there yet. Photo credit: Getty

A maths and physics expert is confident New Zealand has managed to contain COVID-19 and is on the right track to moving to level one in the near future.

There has only been one new case of the coronavirus this week, and 97 percent of all confirmed and probable cases so far have recovered.

Auckland University Prof Shaun Hendy says it is good news.

"I think we can feel pretty good about this week," he told Newshub. "The thing we could have seen this week was a bump in numbers but we've continued to see zeroes, no new cases or single cases."

Research undertaken by Dr Hendy and Te Pūnaha Matatini shows the strict lockdown conditions imposed by the Government were effective in bringing down the virus's reproduction rate or R0 value.

The higher an R0 value is, the more people COVID-19 will spread to. Above one, and it will spread; below one, and it will eventually die out. 

Before the country entered alert level 4, Dr Hendy estimates the R0 value was around 1.8 - but now, it's sitting more around 0.38. 

According to his research, the lockdown caused a drop of more than 80 percent in the virus' reproduction rate. 

Before the decision to move to alert level 2,Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said if New Zealand's R0 remained below one, we will "eventually" reach the goal of elimination of the virus.

Despite the positive week, Dr Hendy says now is not the time to become complacent.

"It's not something we can relax completely about."

He says the country needs to wait longer before moving to alert level 1.

"There's relatively few cases but if we want to go for this elimination goal in level 1, then we do have to leave it for just a little while longer."