Lockdown fatigue being recognised
Our biggest city is now officially enduring the country’s longest Level 4 lockdown with yesterday’s extension through to midnight next Tuesday taking it to five weeks, two days longer than the nationwide lockdown of March/April last year.
It is Auckland’s fifth lockdown and many of its 1.6 million inhabitants are deeply frustrated at the ongoing disruption to their lives. It was no wonder the Prime Minister yesterday stressed the pain being caused by the lockdown and how we should all be grateful for Aucklanders bearing the brunt of Covid-19 impacts on behalf of the rest of the country.
The Government has also softened criteria for Auckland moving down to Level 3, saying there could still be unlinked community Covid cases, and signalling an “in principle” decision that it will do so on Wednesday next week. There was no such signal for the rest of the country’s Level 2 setting — Level 1 will no doubt require certainty the outbreak is fully contained.
For this week the focus has shifted from tracking down sources of transmission that link 17 mystery cases over the past fortnight to the outbreak, to surveillance testing in the seven Auckland suburbs where these cases suggest there could be unidentified spread. There is also a redoubled vaccination push, made possible by additional vaccine supply from Spain and Denmark.
High testing numbers in those suburbs this week is crucial for not only ensuring we do extinguish this outbreak, but also holding to the nation’s elimination strategy — which only has a limited remaining shelf life, but is saving lives and protecting our health system until such time as every eligible New Zealander has had the opportunity to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
It was stating the obvious, but Jacinda Ardern told the AM Show this morning there was no intention to use lockdowns in the long term. For that public statement now we can possibly thank immunologist Graham Le Gros, director of the Malaghan Institute, who essentially pleaded yesterday for an end to “exhausting” lockdowns. Covid-19 was changing too much and we “can’t escape the virus”, he said. Instead there should be an all-out drive to get the first dose of vaccine into all unvaccinated Aucklanders by the end of this week.
“Major societal pressures are under way, and economic pressures . . . . At which point do you start worrying about all the cancer deaths and the other socially-induced deaths and all the alcoholism and things like that?” asked Professor Le Gros.