Coronavirus: 10 experts and leaders give their opinion on elimination and the Delta variant

By Craig McCulloch for RNZ

The broad political and public consensus on eliminating Covid-19 has shown signs of wavering this week as Auckland stares down its longest ever stretch in hard lockdown.

Authorities are confident level four has stamped out "widespread" community transmission, but three clusters are still growing and several mystery cases remain unexplained.

ACT leader David Seymour yesterday suggested New Zealand should abandon its elimination strategy if the situation doesn't improve this week.

RNZ spoke to a range of politicians, scientists, modellers, and officials and asked: is it time to double-down or change tack?

David Seymour

ACT Party leader

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

"If we can't get this outbreak under control with four weeks of level four, are we certain it'll be under control after five? And if we can't get it under control after five weeks, are we gonna go to six? People will go broke in the meantime.

"The alternative is a holding pattern - a kind of level 2 or 3 that allows businesses to operate somewhat sustainably - while we wait for vaccination rates to be high enough to abandon lockdowns."

Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister

"Alert level four is working. It has helped us get the outbreak under control. But we haven't quite finished the job yet.

Chris Bishop

National Party Covid-19 Response spokesperson

"Once we give up on elimination, we can never go back... I do not believe we are in that position just yet.

Michael Baker

University of Otago professor of public health

"People have to think about the consequences of having the virus circulating widely in the country.

"Auckland would be sticking - at best - at alert level 3. Our health system could not cope with an intense pandemic wave.

"It's not simply: oh, we can go back to celebrating our freedoms in some sort of Promised Land. It's not like that at all."

Rod Jackson

University of Auckland professor of epidemiology

"We can knock it on the head if people follow the rules, but people aren't following the rules.

Shaun Hendy

Te Pūnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller

"We weren't sure going into this outbreak how well alert level four would work against Delta, but we have seen it work very effectively.

"The alternative is staying at alert level three for a very long time, well into next year, on top of what would be a healthcare emergency."

Rodney Jones

Wigram Capital Advisors economist, Covid-19 modeller

"No one else has done what we're trying to do now.

"Let's hope we can get back to elimination, but in a few days...

Siouxsie Wiles

Microbiologist, University of Auckland associate professor in Molecular Medicine and Pathology

"We just need to mop up these little transmission chains and then we can get back down the Alert Levels.

"This is really hard, but ... just look at New South Wales. That is the alternative. Hospitals full of patients and lots of people really sick and dying."

Graham Le Gros

Immunologist, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research director and Vaccine Alliance programme director

"This is only one event that got across the border and look at the mayhem - one month lockdown, a billion dollars a week - that's just not sustainable in the long term...

Ashley Bloomfield

Director-General of Health

"The lockdown is working. The testing is at a good level, people are doing what's asked of them, and it's really only a small number of cases that we are investigating very thoroughly just to make sure there is no ongoing community transmission.

"Our view and our advice is that another week in lockdown in alert level 4 in Auckland gives us our best chance to really finish the job off here."