Coronavirus: Public health expert not surprised 'at all' about Saturday's record COVID-19 case numbers

A public health expert is "disappointed" about Saturday's record COVID-19 case numbers but isn't "at all surprised."

The Ministry of Health announced 206 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday - 200 in Auckland, four in Waikato, and two in Northland while an additional Northland case was announced in the afternoon. 

Lesley Gray, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago's department of primary health care and general practice, says sadly this number was on the cards. 

"It's a lot of cases. Like many people, I was very disappointed to hear yesterday's [Saturday] numbers and sadly I wasn't at all surprised," Gray tells Newshub. 

"I'm no epidemiologist and I'm no mathematical modeller, but when I look at the reproduction number, [R value] especially for the Delta variant and with populations with a good number of unvaccinated people, then sadly this is the number we knew was going to happen."

New Zealand is currently sitting at 89 percent for first doses with Waitemata, Auckland, Capital and Coast, Canterbury and Southern leading the way all having reached that milestone.

But for New Zealand to move to the new COVID protection framework or as most people know it as "the traffic light system", every district health board needs to reach 90 percent fully vaccinated, the Government has said.

Gray is aware there's hesitancy out there and people are struggling to figure out what information to believe but urges people on the fence about the vaccine to talk to someone they trust.

"I do understand a lot of the information out there can be confusing for people and for people that are just hesitant about vaccination there have been a lot of scaremongering stories," Gray says.

"In communities where there is hesitancy, how the Government is behaving and the messaging they are hearing and also what messaging sounds trustworthy, then it can be really, really difficult. 

"But for many, if they do speak to a trusted health professional that they know or a senior member of their community then the vast majority will say please go and get vaccinated. The vast majority that are saying don't get vaccinated are in the minority, the vast majority are saying please get vaccinated for your family whānau."

Gray has a couple of key messages for people to remember when deciding to get the vaccine and when they're out and about in public.  

"There are three key things particularly in Auckland and parts of Northland and Waikato that people have to think about; if you're in a household with a good amount of people and you do catch COVID, you're very likely to transfer it to your entire household very quickly and that relates to the reproduction number," she says. 

"The other thing to think about is if people in your household are not vaccinated, they're more likely to get the virus, more likely to transmit the virus and safely more likely to get more poorly and very unwell if they're unvaccinated. 

"Other things to think about are, if you're moving around, stepping outside, use some of the protection measures being advised such as mask-wearing, obviously hand hygiene and that important physically distancing then again if you're in close quarters with people you're more likely to transmit or acquit the virus."