Ashley Bloomfield has revealed five possible scenarios for future Covid-19 variants, including what would be the “worst case”.
Covid-19 case numbers are on the decline in the community, though hospitalisations have stayed fairly stable around the 360 mark. The winter months had been predicted to bring a second outbreak of omicron infections.
Speaking alongside the new Covid-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall, Bloomfield said that the five scenarios focused on being able to pre-empt any disruption to health, business, and social and education outcomes. All potential variants were assumed to be even more transmissible than omicron.
The first scenario, or the worst case, would involve a Covid variant with “high clinical severity”, a bit like delta. That would mean people getting very sick if they caught it. This variant would also be highly evasive, even for people who have been vaccinated or had a prior infection.
The second scenario would be a less severe variant, but one still able to evade vaccines and prior infections. “You would see a lot of people getting infected in the community,” said Bloomfield.
The third would again be a bit like delta in terms of sickness, but prior infection or vaccination would bring a “high level of protection”.
The fourth would be a bit like the subvariants of omicron currently in the community. That would mean they were less severe and the ability for them to evade vaccination was low.
And the fifth scenario would involve “multiple co-variants” in the community at the same time, like when alpha and delta were circulating at the same time.
“We’re not doing any hoping here. We’re planning for the best and planning for the worst, and everything in between,” said Bloomfield.
It could not be ruled out, added Verrall, that the government may have to resort to further lockdowns or travel restrictions in order to combat a future strain of Covid-19. “All measures have to be proportionate and justified, in accordance with our laws,” she said.
On the rollout of a second Covid-19 booster, Bloomfield said he had sought advice from officials on who should be receiving another jab. “No groups should be mandated to have that second booster,” he confirmed. It’s expected that the second booster will be made available only for our most vulnerable groups.