Rawiri Taonui: Don't underestimate Omicron

By Stefan Dimitrof

Dropping vaccine passes is a clear mistake on the government's party, Māori Covid researcher Dr Rawiri Taonui says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's reasoning and justification on that was“a bit slim”, he told Te Ao Tapatahi today.

Taonui was commenting on Ardern's announcement of the next set of changes for the Covid-19 settings in  Aotearoa, which dumps vaccine passes from April 5 and the elimination of mandates for some industries including education and police.  From midnight this Friday, capacity limits are removed for all outdoor events, and indoor capacity limits are doubled from 100 to 200. Requirements to wear facemasks outdoors are also removed.

In general, Taonui agrees with the government’s stance in the Covid restriction changes but still hope that some outdoor areas are still restricted to 50% capacity to a low people to still socially distance. “I still have concerns about spreader events like [those] we saw over the holidays.”

He thinks that should also apply to sporting events like netball and rugby. "It would hurt the finances a bit but it would still allow people to socially distance at these events”.

He says the numbers for vaccinated Māori are still high, having 300,000 Māori still unvaccinated and 200,000 of them aged under 12 years old.

“The science is faulty and it’s a concession to political pressure and the freedom movement protest.”

Emphasising the importance of the vaccine pass, Taonui said: “if you go to a McDonald's, you have the security of knowing that you are vaccinated and the people around are vaccinated. Without the pass, you have the mixing of vaxed and unvaccinated people in an environment where we have a hyper transmissible variant”.

Taonui doesn’t completely agree New Zealand has hit the peak of infection numbers. “The idea that we are going to slide off the peak rapidly is misplaced, Omicron has a long tail with several spikes, I think that we could expect Omicron to last at least the next three months."