Duncan Garner: The COVID-19 alert levels are now irrelevant and level 3 is the worst

OPINION: If you didn't hear the latest warning, then here it is again: We're not out of the woods.

If we get loose, we will stay in level 3 longer.

But I don't think level 3 is working.

I think it might actually be worse than level 4 - because we had expectations of freedom.

No one really knows what they can do until they're pinged for it.

So welcome to no man's land.

But it's worse for the economy, where some businesses are reading their own last rights to themselves.

For a nation that relies on confidence we are fast losing it, and here's how I would describe us.

New Zealand right now is like a pimply, underfed teenager.

Let's call her Sharon, or Shaz.

Shaz is in her first driving lesson, nervous and hugely anxious.

Next to her sits Barry with his clipboard. He's a semi-retired former police officer, a British expat, and Barry is screaming at Sharon to pull back on the clutch.

"Watch the intersection and the car behind you!" Accelerate quickly but don't break the rules!"

In the end, Shazza is a jittery wreck, the 1995 Starlet bunny-hopping madly down the road in the wrong direction - or something like that.

So let's tell Kiwis the truth.

Until there's a vaccine, people will keep on dying, new cases will pop up, people will recover and life goes on.

The alert levels worked going into lockdown, but they're now irrelevant and worse, could be making us sicker.

If 250,000 people lose their jobs, mental illnesses soar and suicides skyrocket. The rest doesn't bear thinking about.

I now challenge the Prime Minister to be way more nimble and flexible.

Find ways to allow New Zealand businesses to open, just go hard on the distancing rules.

The COVID beds in our hospitals are basically empty, so for goodness sake let's get on with it.

Our approach is now turning a whole new kind of deadly.

It's killing Kiwi jobs, killing Kiwi businesses, and that too is a genuine risk to New Zealand's health.

Duncan Garner is the host of The AM Show.