Prof warns of civil disobedience in Auckland

A large anti-lockdown protest took place in Auckland at the weekend. Photo: NZ Herald
A large anti-lockdown protest took place in Auckland at the weekend. Photo: NZ Herald
A medical expert says it is time for lockdown restrictions in Auckland to ease.

Cabinet will meet this afternoon to review the alert levels in Waikato and Tāmaki Makaurau.

University of Auckland Emeritus Professor of medicine Des Gorman said easing restrictions was the only way to maintain public compliance.

"If you leave Auckland where it is, I think you're going to have an outbreak of civil disobedience.

"Aucklanders are barely able to hang in there at the moment, they're trying their best. They're not going out, they're not mixing and mingling. They're looking at sections of society who clearly are - the numbers are going up, and they're asking 'why am I sacrificing my lifestyle, my time with my family, what's being achieved here?'," he said.

Gorman said despite rising case numbers, it was safe to ease restrictions.

"I think it is, providing you distinguish between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Very clearly vaccinated people are a much lower risk to the health system and so they should have greater freedoms," he said.

In Waikato, residents in some parts of the region have been locked down for nearly a month, with 83 active cases in the area.

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said she was realistic, but she would like to see some restrictions eased.

"I know the government will be extremely cautious as we head towards the new traffic light system, but I hope for Hamilton's sake that we are able to go to level 2," she said.

Businesses in both regions are urging the government to relax restrictions.

Retail NZ is asking the government to move to step 2 of the Auckland roadmap this week, and to get stores in Auckland and the Waikato open, subject to safety measures.

Chief executive Greg Harford said there was no compelling reason for retail not to open.

"There is enormous mental and financial harm being caused by the current lockdown. Business owners are finding it increasingly difficult to manage both their mental wellbeing and their finances, while customers can't access the goods they need easily. Online shopping is not enough to keep businesses afloat," he said.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said there was a growing sense of desperation.

"People are at a loss to comprehend the inequities in the current system and a feeling that Wellington has no idea of the extent of the carnage unfolding before us," she said.

"We need to see a different approach to balancing the health and economic response now Covid has hit the community.

"Our businesses have diligently done what has been asked of them, following the protocols and getting vaccinated. But we cannot ignore the huge costs they are bearing - many of which are not quantified," Beck said.

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