Coronavirus: Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate backs decision to move level 2 despite spike in COVID cases

With COVID cases on a steady upwards trend, Hamilton's Mayor is defending the decision to move the region to alert level 2.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health announced 30 new cases of COVID-19 in the Waikato area, which brought the total number associated with this outbreak to 214.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate told Newshub she was "surprised" about the shift in alert levels but "trusts the advice she receives from health professionals".

"No. I take the advice of health professionals," Southgate tells Newshub. "If they felt that it was reasonable to enter level 2, then that's the decision that they made... I was a little bit surprised because I thought we might go up in level 3." 

Pressure has been on the Government to provide Auckland and the Waikato with more freedoms after spending large periods in lockdown.

Southgate says Hamiltonians know extra freedoms will likely see case numbers rise in the area. 

"Having said that, I've always been quite clear to Hamiltonians... that the more freedoms we get, the more cases we're going to get," she says. "The more we move around, the more cases will move around."

She has received mixed reviews about the shift down in alert levels but wanted to remind locals that are enjoying the extra freedoms to remain vigilant and protect themselves.

"Some people are feeling like everything's opening up too fast, too far... the truth is that Delta's on the move through the country anyway, so the best that we can do is protect ourselves within the circumstances that we have," Southgate tells Newshub. "I am seeing signs of people relaxing - not taking their masks with them, getting a little close in public situations where they really should keep their distance."

With most of the country experiencing a nice patch of warm weather and with Christmas just around the corner, Southgate had a clear message for anyone who planned on breaking the rules.

"It feels like summer, they should enjoy that - but they should remember that in order to keep enjoying that, they've got to play their part," she says. "Each and every one of us has got to play our part. Put your mask on, have multiple masks stuffed into your pocket so you've always got one on hand. 

"Keep your distance.. and scan, because it's the easiest way for officials to know where cases have been generated.

"As hot and sticky as it might be under a face mask, it's just what we've got to do. Don't lose heart - keep a positive frame of mind but use the tools that we have to protect ourselves."

Southgate is urging everyone in the Waikato that has yet to receive the jab or just a single dose of the vaccine to go out and get a shot.

She says it is about everyone playing their part and protecting those who are most endangered from the virus. 

"We need to protect those who can't [get vaccinated] - children under 12 and also those who have an immune-compromising situation," she says. 

"Hamilton's already at 92 percent first vaccination and 89 for second, so we're nearly there in Hamilton City... we want to encourage all our neighbors, friends across the Waikato, to up their vaccination numbers.

"All credit to Auckland, but they had to go through a pretty hard time to get the push to get to 90 percent.

"They had very high numbers, and they could just see they were never going to get more freedoms unless they reached that critical target of 90 percent. Good on them."