COVID-19: Mark Richardson would take a week of total lockdown with the 'army on the road' rather than drawn-out alert level 4, level 3

With daily case numbers still in the double-digits and a small cluster of cases cropping up in the Waikato, some experts are concerned Auckland's anticipated shift to alert level 3 on Tuesday is a step too soon - with Mark Richardson also pondering if Aucklanders are "level 4-ing well enough".

Cabinet is convening on Monday afternoon to determine the next steps for the embattled Auckland region, which has now endured five weeks of lockdown after the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 escaped the confines of managed isolation and entered the community. 

Last Monday, Cabinet made an in-principle decision that Auckland would shift from alert level 4 to alert level 3, fondly referred to as "alert level 4 with takeaways", at 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 21. However, recent developments have experts wondering if Auckland is ready to leave lockdown, with the number of new infections each day remaining stubbornly in the double-digits.

An additional 22 cases were recorded on Monday, following 20 and 24 on Saturday and Sunday respectively. There had been a slight dip towards the end of the working week, with just 11 reported on Friday.

And now, many are weighing up whether an extended lockdown is preferable compared to the other possibilities, such as yo-yoing in and out of alert level 4 or enduring a drawn-out stretch at alert level 3.

On Monday, The AM Show host Ryan Bridge floated the idea that staying in alert level 4 for a bit longer may shorten the length of time under alert level 3, with a quick burst at the lesser alert level before transitioning to the more relaxed level 2. 

But co-host and sports-reader Mark Richardson questioned whether Aucklanders are "level-4ing well enough", suggesting that if compliance is already shoddy, prolonging lockdown won't make it any more efficient. 

"I don't think we're level 4-ing well enough, that's my issue. If we keep staying at the current level we'll just go on, and on, and on, and on, and on - so make a decision to go either way," he said.

Richardson said he'd rather spend a week completely housebound - with army personnel out on the street to enforce compliance - than the current situation. 

"You know what, if you could guarantee me that we did a week of basically [being] locked in our houses, with the army stationed out on the road to ensure we don't leave our houses, and this would knock [the outbreak] on the head, I would take that option."

Both Bridge and fellow co-host Amanda Gillies agreed that many Aucklanders appear to be getting more slack with the rules, with Bridge saying a "doof-doof" party had been held down the road from his home on Saturday night. Gillies also noted the number of people exercising on Tamaki Drive over the weekend would have made it incredibly difficult to maintain a physical distance. 

Cabinet's decision about the next steps of Auckland will be announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at 4pm. You can tune into the press conference live on Three or online via our dedicated livestream.