COVID-19: Experts concerned over Government's plan to ease restrictions in Auckland

An in-principle decision by the Government to move Auckland next Wednesday to level three, step two makes some of New Zealand's COVID-19 experts nervous.

University of Auckland Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles warns cases are up - and we still don't know what impact schools reopening will have.

"I am very nervous about the step down to step two in Auckland as we have yet to see the full impact of senior students returning to school on transmission," she says.

"Cases are still rising, and while we are being reassured that this is not going to overwhelm our health system, we need to remember that COVID-19 is a serious disease.

"Many unvaccinated people who catch the virus will develop long COVID. This will have serious consequences for their health and well-being."

University of Canterbury Professor Michael Plank shares that concern - warning higher cases will come with a number of consequences.

"There are also other consequences of high cases, including pressure on primary care, health impacts from long COVID, and disruption to school and workplaces from illness."

Modelling shown at Monday's post-Cabinet press conference shows daily COVID-19 case numbers are expected to peak at 200 cases.

Immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu points to a report earlier in 2021 that outlined concern about the ability of New Zealand's contract tracing system to cope with this number.

"In terms of contract tracing capacity, a Roche report earlier this year concluded that New Zealand would struggle to maintain high system performance of contact tracing for a prolonged period with 100-200 cases per day."

Prof Wiles expresses her concerns for the people who have been safely vaccinated but who haven't had a good immune response.

"It is so important that as Auckland moves to step two that everyone does everything they can to reduce the chance of the virus transmitting," she says.

"That means getting vaccinated if they aren't vaccinated, getting tested if they have symptoms even if vaccinated, and following the mask-wearing and distancing rules."