COVID-19: How successful was the Auckland lockdown?

The sun is shining, cafes are open and Auckland is enjoying its first weekend of level 2 freedom after the fresh emergence of COVID-19 community cases saw it reenter then leave a level 3 lockdown.

But how well did the lockdown work, what impact did it have on Aucklanders daily lives, and what was the cost? Newshub looks at how it went, and whether it prevented another mass outbreak.

Did the lockdown work?

The lockdown did succeed in stopping the spread of the virus further. Altogether, the Ministry of Health (MoH) says there have been just seven cases in the community in the latest outbreak, with the number now stabilising.

On Sunday, the ministry confirmed that no new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the community in the past 24 hours.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the alert level 3 lockdown was necessary and the Government "absolutely" stands by that decision.

She said they weren't clear on the origin of the first case, and "going hard" is much better than getting it wrong.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the lockdown was "absolutely the right thing to do".

"This vigorous, rapid response is absolutely the way to go. It's the winning formula," he told the NZ Herald earlier this week.

"This is a more infectious variant probably... there's a higher chance that it will be but this gives us time to gather evidence and extend these control measures or not."

However Auckland University Professor of Medicine Des Gorman argued the Government's responses were "all over the place" and too focused on the optics.

"I'd say that over the last week it's been impossible to follow the response of the Government in terms of determining what the level of risk is that they're living with," he told Newstalk ZB.

"Certainly, if you take Sunday, for example, if we need to be in level 3 - and you and I would say that was a reasonable response to the unknown at the time - then how on Earth did they let the Big Gay Out and the America's Cup go ahead?

"No wonder people are anxious and when you add that political theatre we are seeing in terms of the level announcements. People are becoming quite distressed by all this and part of that is, they simply can't see any predictability to the response."

What impact did the lockdown have on daily life

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the transition to alert level 3 had gone "reasonably well".

She said numbers had been well down on public transport, there had been active management of some congestion around testing sites, and the online portal for people going in and out of the region was being well used.

News of the lockdown's implementation last Sunday brought back memories of last year's long-running lockdowns - and saw a resurgence of panic-buying and heavy traffic.

Sunday night saw the mass exodus of vehicles from Auckland ahead of the midnight lockdown restrictions. Heavy delays were reported on the state highways out of the city.

There were also queues on Monday and Tuesday as traffic attempted to pass through the Auckland region's boundaries, which requires an exemption.

"Between midnight on Sunday February 14 and 4pm on Monday February 15 police processed 14,142 vehicles through these checkpoints," Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said in a statement.

"At the southern checkpoints, of the 8607 vehicles which came through, 779 were turned away. At the northern checkpoints of the 5535 vehicles which came through, 715 were turned away."

One person however was arrested for failing to stop at a police checkpoint. Asst Cmmr Chambers said the person had failed to stop at the Mercer Checkpoint on State Highway 1 and they were arrested sometime later when they stopped in Hamilton.

"The 26-year-old is currently assisting police with our enquiries and we cannot rule out the possibility of charges being laid," he said.

"Outside of the arrest mentioned above, there have been no other arrests or warnings in relation to the alert level restrictions that we are immediately aware of. Either in Auckland or across the rest of New Zealand."

He adds that overall the community has been "understanding and cooperative".

There were also images of panic-buying at Auckland's supermarkets, with some of the country's biggest supermarkets placing limits on products to stop people buying in bulk.

"There is something about human behaviour that people feel the need to buy toilet paper and flour whenever something like this happens," Ardern said.

A Foodstuffs spokesperson told Newshub that by Wednesday, "all ok in stores today and nothing to report".

What has the cost been?

The lockdown forced the cancellations of multiple events, including mid-week America's Cup racing.

Economist Cameron Bagrie said each day at alert levels 3 and 2 cost the economy $85 million ($255 million over three days).

"For Auckland, I put the impact on GDP [at] around $45 million per day at alert level 3...$40 million per day for the rest of NZ at alert level 2," he said. "The hit to business turnover is more than double that."

"Based on actual spending outcomes in August 2020 [when Auckland last went into COVID-19 alert level 3], we expect consumer spending will be down around 40 percent from normal - this could cost $175 million in card spending," added Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen.

But it's important to note that failing to contain the virus would have had far more damaging economic impacts - and forced the lockdown to drag on even longer.