COVID-19: Epidemiologist Michael Baker calls for Government to 'step in now' as cases rise

  • 09/07/2022

An epidemiologist is calling for the Government to reintroduce more widespread mask mandates as COVID-19 cases rise.

For weeks nurses have been warning New Zealand's health system was in a crisis, with workers battling winter illnesses and a new wave of COVID-19. 

Despite those challenges, the Government has said a return to the red COVID-19 traffic light setting was not being considered. 

Speaking to Newshub Nation on Saturday, epidemiologist Michael Baker said the Government needed to "step in now" before the latest wave of COVID-19 cases reached its peak.

"You've got to start working on this now because there's a lag from when you slow down transmission to when it does peak," Prof Baker told host Rebecca Wright. "So I would say we need a mask mandate in schools immediately and we need to think about the other environments."

Instead of focusing on which colour the traffic light should be, Prof Baker said the focus should be on mask-use.

"I think, in a way, it's not really so much about red or green or amber," he said. "It's actually about adopting and actually mandating some specific behaviors. I think that's going to be quite understandable for people.

"When you go to any indoor event, you put on your mask and you have the mandate to back it up so that you don't feel lonely being the only person in the room with a mask."

Prof Baker said wearing masks at indoor events needed to become the "social norm".

"You can take your mask off, obviously, to have a drink and socialise. Otherwise, we need to be a mask-wearing society until we through the worst of this."

He said Kiwis might have to wear masks at indoor events for the "foreseeable future".

"You can do everything pretty much but you need to be wearing a mask now because we have very few alternatives."

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