Covid-19: Experts call for hard internal border to protect rest of NZ

RICKY WILSON/STUFF
Tai Tokerau border checkpoints are back following Northland's move to alert level 3. Organisers Rueben Taipari and Pita Tipene explain their importance of keeping the virus out.

A hard border is needed to protect southern parts of New Zealand as Covid-19 cases continue to spread in the North Island, say public health experts.

On Sunday 60 new Covid cases were reported in New Zealand, the highest tally for a single day since early September.

Four of the cases were outside of Auckland – three in Waikato and one in the Bay of Plenty. Authorities are also trying to track the movements of a Covid case who travelled into Northland.

Covid tests could play a crucial role in keeping southern parts of New Zealand safe.
Ricky Wilson/Stuff
Covid tests could play a crucial role in keeping southern parts of New Zealand safe.

Nick Wilson, a professor in public health at Otago University, said the Government did not seem to have a direction after apparently giving up its elimination strategy.

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“The Government seems to be throwing up its hands,” he said.

“We can have a good go with a regional approach. That means really toughening up on who can cross the border out of Auckland and Waikato.”

Professor Nick Wilson of the University of Otago Wellington says protecting the South Island is “a no-brainer”.
Supplied
Professor Nick Wilson of the University of Otago Wellington says protecting the South Island is “a no-brainer”.

He recommended limiting what was deemed essential travel, and requiring everyone coming south to be fully vaccinated, plus have a nasopharyngeal Covid test and then a rapid test at the border.

“All those things will keep the rest of the country safe.”

Wilson pointed to Australian states that had kept Covid away despite high numbers in New South Wales in Sydney, especially Tasmania, which has gone more than 500 days without cases.

The strategy would benefit Auckland by having health workers available to head north to prevent hospitals there being overwhelmed, he said.

It would not be hard to block the main roads across the central North Island to protect the lower parts of the island.

“It would be crazy to let it into the South Island. It’s a no-brainer when there are no leaky borders where people can sneak across.”

Dr Rod Jackson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Auckland, said no-one should be allowed to come into the South Island from the North Island without a rapid Covid test at the border.
Supplied
Dr Rod Jackson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Auckland, said no-one should be allowed to come into the South Island from the North Island without a rapid Covid test at the border.

Professor Rod Jackson, an epidemiologist at Auckland University, said the failure of Auckland and part of Australia to “get on top of the virus” indicated how much of a threat the Delta variant was.

“You need a hard border. No-one [comes] into the South Island without a rapid test at that border, and no-one [is allowed] in without being double vaccinated.

“It should be like the international border coming into the country. Delta spreads so widely and so rapidly.

“You don’t want people with Covid getting in until you are 95 per cent vaccinated. Ninety per cent is not good enough.”

Jackson said it was time “to get serious” about Covid-19.

He called for a range of measures including the Government mandating “no jab, no job” policies.

“The Government is going softly-softly.”