Tova O'Brien: My money's on a shift down COVID-19 alert levels

OPINION: If I were a betting woman, I'd put good money on a shift down alert levels in Auckland at 4.30pm despite the two new cases identified in the community on Wednesday afternoon.

Here's why:

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has drawn equivalence between these two new cases at Papatoetoe High School and the Northland case which didn't require a lock down.

The main reason we didn't shift up alert levels after the Northland case is because we knew where it came from. It wasn't a surprise case in the community that could have been silently spreading for goodness knows how long.

Like Northland, we have a pretty good idea of where these two new cases have come from - they're siblings who went to school with one of the original community cases.

And they're already isolating so they don't pose too much of a risk of passing covid on to anyone else.

Hipkins just told Newshub that we have to treat these two new cases like the Northland case, i.e. not requiring additional alert level restrictions.

Hipkins says we have managed cases like this before that have popped up in the community without having to change alert levels.

Reading between the lines - we don't need to stay in lockdown because of these two new cases.

All of this is heavily caveated by the fact cabinet will be weighing up any new, additional information or risk factors when it meets at 3pm.

But as it stands these two new cases don't appear to pose enough of a risk to keep Auckland in lockdown.

Further bolstering the between the line reading, the minister also pointed out a major difference between our current mini-outbreak with last year's August outbreak and extended lockdown.

Back in August, the lockdown stemmed from an undetected case in the community and we didn't know where it came from. That time round the number of cases grew exponentially as the results of the extensive testing rolled in. The cases blew out over 100.

This time round, there's also been extensive testing but so far - touch wood - only two more positive cases.

So fifty bucks says Auckland shifts to alert level 2 or 2.5 at midnight on Wednesday night barring any new, unforeseen COVID circumstances.

Tova O'Brien is Newshub's political editor.