COVID-19: Chris Hipkins explains why unvaccinated can travel outside of Auckland as expert calls lack of mandate 'unbelievable'

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the Government is "continuing to look at" ways to minimise risk, as the effectiveness of measures for people travelling to and from Auckland are called into question.

It comes after two unvaccinated cases of COVID-19 emerged in Christchurch overnight, one of whom had recently returned from Auckland - the epicentre of New Zealand's Delta outbreak - and the other a household contact.

"I just find it unbelievable that we are allowing unvaccinated people out of Auckland to travel - for whatever reason," said Apisalome Talemaitoga, a Manukau GP and the chair of the Royal College of GPs Pacific chapter. "People should be doubly vaccinated before they can do this.

"This highlights the delay and 'dragging the chain' with rapid antigen testing. The fact we are still relying on a negative PCR test 'before leaving Auckland' sounds so 'old hat,'" Dr Talemaitoga said.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker, appearing on The AM Show earlier, also said such a mandate was a good idea.

"There are huge health and economic benefits in delaying the spread of this virus across New Zealand for as long as possible," Prof Baker said.

Hipkins on Thursday was asked why unvaccinated people were allowed to travel outside of Auckland.

"This person did have a test so the system worked as it should," he told The AM Show host Ryan Bridge. The reality is when you're dealing with a virus, it is impossible to absolutely eliminate all risk and this is one of the reasons that the whole country [outside Auckland and Waikato] is at alert level 2.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

"This is the reality that we are in, in New Zealand. COVID-19 Delta is here - it is impossible to seal a border around Auckland - people do need to come and go from Auckland."

There remained few details about the COVID-19 cases in Christchurch on Thursday morning, other than that they were unvaccinated and weren't using the COVID Tracer app. Hipkins said the original case had a negative pre-departure test in Auckland but later tested positive in Christchurch.

Hipkins understood the trip to Auckland was authorised and "involved the care of a child". He's scheduled to front a press conference at 1pm with the latest on the Christchurch situation and all other COVID-19 developments.