Moving Auckland to COVID-19 alert level 1 makes sense, but caution is necessary - expert

A modelling expert is confident Auckland will drop to COVID-19 alert level one on Monday but says there should be additional measures in place to make New Zealand's response more water-tight.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Cabinet will deliberate on Monday about whether to change the alert levels, with an announcement expected at 3pm.

Canterbury University Professor Michael Plank told Newshub he believes the Government will drop the alert level.

"We've only had one case since Friday and that was a household case - that was to be expected. It looks good, looks like the cluster is well contained."

Auckland was thrust into a strict three-day lockdown last Sunday after three cases of COVID-19 were found in the community. Over the following week, four more people tested positive. 

On Wednesday, the Government dropped the city to COVID-19 alert level 2, and the rest of New Zealand to level 1. 

Prof Plank says dropping Auckland to level 1 "seems to be the way to go" but further measures should be considered to make sure the COVID-19 response is watertight.

"We don't want to get complacent - so we need everyone to keep up with the QR code scanning."

He says frontline border workers should also be getting daily saliva tests, rather than the current "onerous" weekly nasal swabs.

Saliva testing can be done regularly, and it's easier for the workers, Prof Plank says.

"That increased frequencies of testing will give us an additional layer of defense against that kind of outbreak.

"Weekly testing is okay but you can get tested on a Monday, contract it on a Tuesday, and then it's a whole week until your next test."

The Government has defended not bringing in large-scale saliva testing for COVID-19 over concerns it's not as accurate as nasal swabbing. The Ministry of Health has completed just 140 saliva tests in total nationwide.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said more saliva testing could happen here, but he won't say when. 

"I am not going to rule out expanding saliva testing."