Some restrictions should remain in Auckland despite a move to COVID-19 alert level 1 expected to be announced by Cabinet on Monday, a leading epidemiologist says.
University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker says modelling indicates there's a more than 95 percent chance that COVID-19 has been eliminated.
But he's calling for some controls to remain, especially on large indoor crowds in the super-city - which has been under coronavirus restrictions since the community outbreak in August.
Baker told The AM Show Auckland was ready for the alert level move but is continuing to push for an "alert level 1.5". He floated the idea when the rest of New Zealand moved down alert levels last month, proposing limits on public gatherings remain in place and heightened mask use.
"We are ready to move down a level - there's a high probability the virus has been eliminated in the community," he said on Monday. "We would advocate that we actually have a level 1.5 now - it means we can come out of level 2 sooner but this level keeps some sensible precaution.
"It would mean pretty much business as usual except mask use in very specific situations.
"This would put very few restrictions on most businesses."
Officials could work with sectors hosting large gatherings to minimise any risk of an outbreak, he said.
Any alert level changes decided on Monday will come into effect on Wednesday. Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive said many business owners are getting restless.
Barnett told Newshub on Sunday an alert level 1 move is overdue, with some businesses only able to operate at half capacity.
"There is an element of impatience and frustration," he said. "This last lockdown has been absolutely painful for Auckland.
"There's a lack of clarity - there's just uncertainty."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will hold a press conference at 1pm to make the alert level announcement.