Experts welcome COVID-19 lockdown extension but warn it may need to be extended again

The COVID-19 lockdown extension is being welcomed by experts but they are warning Sunday could still be too soon to loosen up restrictions. 

It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that Auckland will remain under alert level 3 until 11:59pm on Sunday while the rest of New Zealand will stay at alert level 2. 

"This has been a hard year," Ardern said. "If it feels hard right now it's because it is but let's also remember where in a world where 2020 has frankly been terrible, we are strong, we have been kind and we are doing really well."

It was a bit of Prime Ministerial encouragement because it's not over yet.

"In our fight against this virus we have held some records - now the one we have to beat is around resurgence, and if any one country knows how to bounce back, it is us," Ardern said. 

But before we bounce back we have to knuckle down. 

Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy, who has provided COVID-19 modelling for the Government, said a further lockdown extension may be required. 

"We may not have this completely under control and we may need a longer extension but for the time being I think the Government is managing that risk with this shorter extension," Hendy told Newshub. 

So, level 3 lockdown in Auckland and level 2 for the rest of New Zealand could yet be extended.

Otago University Professor in the Department of Public Health Michael Baker also said the decision may need to be revisited. 

"We could potentially see at the end of the week we've still got reasonable numbers and we might potentially have to revisit that, but at this stage this is a real triumph for the approach New Zealand's taking now."

That approach is greater testing, contact tracing and mask wearing. The latest outbreak spooked the country and the Government into taking them more seriously - physically distancing too. 

"I know it's awkward for New Zealanders to step back, to try and keep that distance, but we just need to keep reminding ourselves that social distancing is in for a reason," Ardern said. 

That goes for the minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, Megan Woods, who was pictured getting a bit close for comfort on the campaign. 

"I'll be reminding everyone including myself," Ardern said. 

The Opposition wants the Government to go beyond reminders and take responsibility for the outbreak. 

"The lack of accountability is staggering. The Prime Minister refuses to blame anyone, now she's blaming the trickiness of a virus. No one has talked to me like that since I was at Horohoro kindy," ACT leader David Seymour said. 

National leader Judith Collins is worried about businesses. 

"There are a lot of people who are today wondering whether or not they'll have a job next week and there are a lot of businesses who are wondering just how tough this is going to get and how often they're going to be in and out of lockdown," Collins told Newshub. 

Ardern said the Government hasn't forgotten about businesses and the economy. 

"We are constantly keeping in mind the cost to business, the cost to Auckland economy - but equally we have to keep in mind the wider costs if we make a premature decision that doesn't give enough certainty that we can come out and we can then stay out."