Yo-yoing from alert levels next step in NZ response to COVID-19 pandemic professor Michael Baker claims

Professor Michael Baker has called on the country and the Government to accept yo-yo-ing from alert levels when dealing with the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. 

Speaking on Radio NZ on Sunday, Baker said even though the yo-yo effect isn't "politically acceptable", he did feel it's the next step in our response to dealing with the virus. 

"One of the wider questions is that we should have a high tolerance of the yo-yo effect," Baker told RNZ. 

"I know this isn't politically acceptable but if you're trying to predict what the outbreak is doing, it might be sensible to allow the country to move down [alert levels] more quickly outside Auckland and accept we can go back up alert levels if necessary. 

"But since it's become quite politicised and Governments might be punished for making that sort of decision, it means we are overly cautious. 

"I think we could take a more nuanced approach and accept we are going to adjust our response according to what the outbreak numbers are telling us."

This comes after speculation in the media suggested that New Zealand's elimination strategy could be coming to an end.

Baker feels the next step in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic is focusing on essential workers who are at the highest risk of transmitting the virus.

"I think the big focus should be on essential workers," Baker told RNZ.

 "They're are the people - 10 to 15 percent - that leave home every day to keep the country running. 

"They're doing a wonderful job but they're at a higher risk and can also become infectious and transmit the virus more widely. 

"We have already seen in supermarkets and healthcare settings there have been essential workers that have been found to be infected. 

"That's the only group really that we should be focusing our attention on but of course the other group are those not following the rules. Hopefully, there aren't many people doing that.

Baker agreed with the Government's decision to shift everyone south of Auckland down to alert level three from Wednesday.

"I think it was a very balanced decision," he said. 

"We did know a large number of people had moved from Auckland across the country, they had been at places of interest and I do think we did need the two weeks to ensure that any undetected chains of transmission were going to be suppressed."

Baker did give a stern warning on RNZ that we should continue to expect cases to rise consistently. 

"It appears we are going to see more than 1000 cases now," Baker says. "As the outbreak has progressed, it's become clear that more people were infected prior to lockdown on the 17th [August], which is now 12 days ago. 

"So probably as many as 100 cases, maybe more, which is what I think has been driving the larger numbers than were expected. 

"Looking optimistically, we seem to be on a plateau and we are seeing the effects of alert level 4 restrictions."