A top infectious diseases expert says the Government has a simple question to answer when it decides next week on whether to move Auckland to alert level 2 or stay at the more restrictive level 3 for a bit longer.
"How brutal do you want to go?"
Outspoken University of Auckland epidemiologist Rod Jackson appeared on Newshub Nation on Saturday morning wearing a t-shirt with 'vax a nation' written on the front.
He says getting everyone in the city fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is the only permanent way out of lockdown, especially if the level 3 restrictions are lifted before authorities are 100 percent sure there's no undetected transmission.
"There is nothing else in our toolkit that's going to last for long. Masks are great, distancing is great, but they're all short-term, stopgap measures until we get vaccinated. Every New Zealander needs to get vaccinated by Labour Day."
The Government has set an informal target of 90 percent of eligible Kiwis - those aged 12-plus - to reconsider the use of lockdowns to stop the spread of the Delta variant. Dr Jackson says the evidence is that's not good enough - he wants 95 percent minimum.
"Unless you want what you see in Australia. Are you happy with thousands of people in hospital, hundreds of people dead, one-in-three people with long COVID? I mean, just how brutal do you want to get with this? There's a very simple answer - vaccination. It's a complete no-brainer."
He rejects suggestions that 95 percent of eligible people getting the jab is unrealistic.
"Ninety-six percent of Cook Islanders, 98 percent of Fijian adults have already had one jab, 100 percent of All Blacks. I can reel off places where there are well over 95 percent of people who are vaccinated? But how did they get there? That's the key point.
"Now in most countries where they've got to those levels the biggest pressure, or the biggest factor is they're just terrified because people are dropping dead, people are getting sick. We don't have that in New Zealand, so what we need is something else."
His idea is for all the political parties to "come together" with a unified message, which anyone who follows politics knows is highly unlikely.
'Who wants Sydney and Melbourne?'
If the restrictions are lifted while mystery cases are still showing up, Auckland will quickly end up in a similar situation to Sydney and Melbourne, Dr Jackson said.
"And who wants Sydney and Melbourne? I'm just going to be counting more sick and dead people. It's brutal. How brutal do you want to go?
"I mean, we've had a dream run so far - 27 deaths, no one else has done as well as us. But there is a way to finish this off and have a dream finale - that is if we all get vaccinated. We did the best in the world with elimination - why can't we do best in the world at vaccination?"
The good news for now, he says, is most new cases are being linked - of the 19 reported on Friday for example, just one hadn't yet been linked. Most of the unlinked cases reported earlier in the week have also been since been resolved. As of Friday afternoon, there remained just nine unlinked cases from the previous two weeks.
"It was great. It's all about the unlinked cases," said Dr Jackson. "The good news is if there's no unlinked cases, we can change the alert level. If there' are any unlinked cases, we can't. Simple as that… If there's one unlinked case out there, there's infection in the community. With Delta one person will infect six other people, they'll infect six other people - it's all about the unlinked cases."
If there was any doubt, at the end of the interview Dr Jackson revealed what was written on the back of his t-shirt: 'don't be a dick, get the prick!'
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