Covid-19 coronavirus Delta outbreak: Expert on what Waikato cases could mean for Cabinet’s big lockdown decision

A top epidemiologist says the new cases of Covid-19 in Waikato highlight the need for mask use inside schools.

Three household members of a remand prisoner with Covid-19 who was announced on Sunday as a case have tested positive for the virus.

One is a child who was symptomatic while at school on Thursday.

Two of the three household members attend Mangatangi School on the Hauraki Plains. All three positive cases, and an accompanying adult caregiver, are being moved to a quarantine facility.

The school has been closed and parents have been contacted. Arrangements are being made for the students and their families to be tested.

“This illustrates why the unexpected cases are the ones that are most concerning for controlling this outbreak,” Professor Michael Baker said.

While the region is currently in alert level two, Baker said these cases show the limitations within the level.

“Alert level three and four are stay at home orders and they are really designed to stamp out outbreaks.

“Alert level two isn’t able to do that, all it can do is basically reduce the size of an outbreak.”

While many experts have advocated for mask-wearing in schools, face masks are not required but instead encouraged.

“I think the big missed opportunity is not requiring mask use at level two in schools,” he said.

Baker said these cases could “influence” Cabinet’s decision today.

Cabinet will decide after nearly five weeks whether to shift Auckland out of level 4, and the rest of the country back to less restrictive level 2 settings.

Ardern last week indicated an in-principle decision that Auckland would move to level 3 at 11.59pm on Tuesday, September 21.

Baker said the case reported earlier on Sunday of the prisoner “concerned him” because there was no immediate idea as to how the individual became positive.

“This tail end of the outbreak and really the future of the whole outbreak elimination depends on these new remaining chains of transmission.”

He said unexpected cases like the three new cases in Waikato illustrated why they are the most concerning.

Baker said the problem the region faces is that when level two there is nota lot of “control on the spread of the virus”.


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