‘Worst case scenario’: NZ lockdown could last until October

 

New Zealand authorities say the country is already preparing for a "worst-case scenario" which experts say could see the country locked down until as late as October.

The country's deputy leader Winston Peters said it was yet to be determined how far coronavirus had spread, but authorities were preparing for the worst.

"It is a case of, I suppose, seeing things as the worst-case scenario so that you are not surprised," he told Today.

"At this point of time we don't know how wide the spread is - whether it has dispersed outside of Auckland and whether we have a fix on all the cases. It is one of those in-between times."

Mr Peters said authorities have "about 36 more hours" to get ahead on the source of the new cases, which remains unknown.

"Everyone is asking the same question. We don't know until we get the medical research in," he said.

A nurse tests people for COVID-19 in Auckland, New Zealand after new virus cases emerged. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
A nurse tests people for COVID-19 in Auckland, New Zealand after new virus cases emerged. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

 

New Zealand's Cabinet will decide on the future of the country's lockdown tomorrow, including how long the new restrictions last, the severity of the new outbreak and whether the source of infection has been found.

He noted that New Zealanders "from the Prime Minister down" are "all annoyed about this".

"We have to grit our teeth. It is not about the politicians or anyone else. It is about five million New Zealanders. We have to get our team together and that has to be our number one focus."

NEW RESTRICTIONS IN NEW ZEALAND

New restrictions have been in place in New Zealand since midday Wednesday. Auckland is at stage 3 restrictions, while the rest of the country is at stage 2.

This means people living in Auckland will have to work from home unless they are an essential services worker. Schools will only remain open for students whose parents are essential workers.

Public facilities, bars, restaurants and businesses in Auckland will be forced to close, and gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. For the rest of the country, mass gatherings are now limited to 100 people.

New restrictions have been in place in New Zealand since midday Wednesday, with Kiwis urged to wear masks in public. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
New restrictions have been in place in New Zealand since midday Wednesday, with Kiwis urged to wear masks in public. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

 

Ms Ardern has also urged everyone to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the virus, noting people can fashion their own face covering if needed.

Supermarkets have already moved to immediately restrict the sale of some essential products to ensure demand can be met and prevent stockpiling.

WHAT'S THE 'WORST-CASE SCENARIO'?

While it's expected that Aucklanders will most likely stay in lockdown for longer than three days, a worst-case scenario would mean it could be seven weeks, a top scientist warned.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told The New Zealand Herald it all came down to determining how far this outbreak had already spread and if a direct link to an overseas case could be identified.

"You would expect a longer lockdown would be more likely. The most positive outcome is if contact tracing identifies a clear line of transmission from an imported case or someone working at managed quarantine," Prof Baker said.

"If the direct line to imported cases is established quickly, that's very helpful and then it's finding out the extent of infection among the contacts. If some of them are infected then it's working out the extent of infection among their contacts, and so it goes on."

Experts say New Zealand could stay in lockdown for up to seven weeks. Picture: New Zealand Herald
Experts say New Zealand could stay in lockdown for up to seven weeks. Picture: New Zealand Herald

 

Prof Baker said the extreme scenario would be that New Zealand would go back to the situation in March when the virus was extinguished after five weeks at stage 4 restrictions and then two weeks at stage 3.

"I don't think anyone is imagining that will be necessary this time around, but if you are taking the extreme range of possibilities, we know from experience in March that it was very effective."

Prof Baker said the wider the outbreak and the more time it took to contact trace, the longer people will be in lockdown.

- with Emma Russell

Originally published as 'Worst case scenario' for NZ


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