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Alert level decisions expected today

Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber says he hoped to stay in level 2 but realised there was a possibility on a change to level 3 following the announcement of a postive Covid-19 case in Katikati. Photo: SunLive.

Bay of Plenty and Waikato mayors are hopeful of a decision today on Covid-19 alert levels, but a public health specialist warns it’ll lower protection from the spread of the Delta variant.

A person who was moving home between Auckland and Katikati, a permitted activity, had tested positive for the virus and was among the 60 new cases reported on Sunday.

Of those, 56 were from Auckland, three from Waikato and linked to the existing Hamilton East case and the single from Katikati in the Western Bay of Plenty.

The figures will form part the Government’s decision on whether to lower the alert level 3 status for Hamilton-North Waikato on Monday.

Inside the alert level 3 bubble, Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said the current lockdown had been “devastating for city businesses”.

“So, if the numbers are under control and provided people are following all the rules, I would cautiously welcome a drop back to level 2. But I’m not confident that will happen.”

Waikato district mayor Allan Sanson says he hopes the Waikato cases have been “ring-fenced” enough for health officials to give a favourable report to Cabinet on Monday morning.

“One option could be that we are left in alert level 3 for one more week.

“The other is that we are kept in lockdown longer to make those people who are not vaccinated, realise they only way we’re going to get out of this, is by getting better vaccination rates.”

University of Otago Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice senior lecturer Lesley Gray says alert levels 2 and 3 offer much less protection from the spread of Delta compared to level 4.

She says the number of cases “popping up” in the upper North Island is worrying.

”... although most have links with the Auckland region. All of Saturday’s new Waikato cases are linked to the original case.”

Gray says health authorities should think about mobile vaccination teams visiting smaller, rural communities where people might not have transport to a vaccination centre.

Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber. Photo: SunLive.

That view is backed by Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber who says there are many rural communities “deprived” of health services.

“Public transport is minimal to nil and we have to think a bit differently about how we get to those places to get people vaccinated.”

He says the ministry and tangata whenua are “doing a pretty good job” to boost vaccination numbers.

“But we have a diverse community in the Western Bay of Plenty, we have big Indian and Pacific communities and many of these people have no way to get around.

“Many are RSE workers here for the horticulture industry and I think employers need to play a part in this, to make sure their workers can get to a vaccination centre.”

Webber said he hoped to stay in level 2 but realised there was a possibility on a change to level 3.

Across the Kaimai Range, Matamata-Piako mayor Ash Tanner and Hauraki mayor Toby Adams are also looking to remain in alert level 2.

Their districts are in a corridor with Western Bay of Plenty on one side and the bespoke level 3 created for Hamilton and North Waikato to the west.

Adams says reports of Covid-19 cases closer to home have “sparked up everyone to go and get vaccinated”.

“I also think the talk of Covid passports really got a lot of younger people, under 30, to go out and get the jab because they want to make sure they have a summer with concerts.”

Tanner said lockdowns were “killing businesses” but it was important to be guided by health and science specialists.

“We’ve got no cases in our areas so we should stay at level 2.”

 /Stuff

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