Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: 23 deaths, 11,560 community cases

There are 23 new Covid deaths today, making this week New Zealand’s deadliest since the start of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Health has also reported 11,560 new community cases.

According to ministry data, last week was the deadliest seven-day period of the outbreak, with 84 deaths.

Today’s figures mean this week has surpassed that.

Since Monday, there have been 104 deaths.

There have been 378 publicly reported deaths of people with Covid-19 in New Zealand since the pandemic began, most since the Omicron variant outbreak began in January.

The ministry today also reported 678 people in hospital with the virus, including 30 in intensive care.

Those who died included a person aged in their 30s. The other deaths, which include people who have died over the past five days, were: two people aged in their 50s, one each in their 60s and 70s, 13 in their 80s and five aged over 90. Twelve were male and 11 female.

One was from Northland, seven from Auckland, two from the Lakes District Health Board area, two from MidCentral, seven from Wellington, one from Nelson Marlborough, one from Canterbury and two from Southern.

The deaths take the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 18, up from 17 yesterday.

“At this point in the outbreak, we are continuing to report people dying with Covid-19 on a daily basis despite the number of community cases declining in many parts of the country”, the ministry said.

“Sadly, this is not unexpected, and our thoughts are with the families of these people.

“As has occurred with Omicron overseas, while Covid-19 cases are usually seen in higher numbers among younger people early in the outbreak, over time the more severe and fatal consequences of the virus fall disproportionately on our older and more vulnerable populations.

“Among the deaths we are reporting today are people with pre-existing conditions and older people living in aged-care facilities.”

Delays to reporting deaths could be associated with people dying with Covid-19, rather than from Covid-19, and Covid being discovered only after they had died, the ministry said.

Getting boosted continued to be one of the most important ways people could protect themselves against severe illness and could be lifesaving, the ministry said.

“There is a much lower risk of being hospitalised if you are up to date with your vaccinations, which, for Omicron, includes a third or booster dose if eligible.”

The full figures

The seven-day rolling average of new Covid-19 cases is continuing to fall. Today’s seven-day rolling average is 13,751. The seven-day rolling average of cases at last Saturday was 16,943.

The number of active cases in the community now is 96,243. There have been 681,044 cases in New Zealand since the pandemic began.

New cases numbers by regional or district health board today are: Northland (521), Auckland (1931), Waikato (1004), Bay of Plenty (650), Lakes (285), Hawke’s Bay (588), MidCentral (663), Whanganui (293), Taranaki (428), Tairāwhiti (141), Wairarapa (97), Capital and Coast (820), Hutt Valley (479), Nelson Marlborough (480), Canterbury (1866), South Canterbury (248), Southern (995), West Coast (71).

There were also 41 cases detected at the border.

Most cases are now detected by rapid antigen tests; 23,499 were reported in the past 24 hours. There were 3491 PCR tests done over the same period.

Most of the 678 people in hospital are in Auckland, where 109 are in North Shore hospital, 135 in Middlemore and 106 in Auckland. Other hospitalisations are in Northland (14), Waikato (76), Bay of Plenty (32), Lakes (17), Tairāwhiti (4).Hawke’s Bay (36), Taranaki (17). Whanganui (3), MidCentral (18). Hutt Valley (20), Capital and Coast (20), Nelson Marlborough (9), Canterbury (33) and Southern (29).

The average age of those in hospital is 58.

Vaccination rates

The unvaccinated continue to be over-represented in hospitalisations: 33.3 per cent of cases in Northland and Auckland hospitals are either unvaccinated or not eligible to be vaccinated.

Just under 2 per cent of cases are partially immunised, 20.3 per cent double-dosed and 30.1 per cent boosted. The vaccination status of 34.3 per cent of cases isn’t known.

Nationally, 95.1 per cent of people aged over 12 have had at least two vaccinations; 72.7 per cent of those eligible have also received their booster.

Māori vaccinations continue to lag behind the national rate, with 88.1 per cent double-dosed and 57.6 per cent of those eligible for a booster having received it. For Pacific Peoples the double dose rate is 96.4 per cent and 59.3 per cent of those eligible have been boosted.

The same inequity between Māori and the Pacific and general population can also be seen in vaccination rates for 5 to 11-year-olds.

While 54 per cent of 5-11s have received a first dose, and 17.6 per cent a second dose, only 34.9 per cent of tamariki Māori have had their first dose and 8.1 per cent their second.

Pacific Peoples aged 5 to 11 are 47.1 per cent single-dosed and 9 per cent double-dosed.

Yesterday, 123 paediatric first doses were given and 2832 second doses.

For over 12s, 2121 people received their booster dose yesterday. Another 60 people received their first dose and 176 their second dose. There were also 23 third primary doses given.

Settings change

On Monday, Cabinet will decide whether to shift the country – or select regions – from red to orange settings, which increase the number of people who can gather indoors.

The latest case numbers today and tomorrow will be part of public health advice for the decision.

Under orange, there are no limits on indoor gathering sizes.

The main thing they were looking for was an indication of where the country was “in terms of the overall peak”, Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday, when 13,475 new Covid cases and 17 deaths were reported.

Regional spread slow

The Covid-19 outbreak in regional New Zealand is proving slower and longer than that of metropolitan centres, with a more sustained peak of Covid-19 cases,

Auckland, Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley district health board areas, all confined to the cities, had experienced an outbreak where cases went up quickly, and were coming down quickly, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said this week.

Auckland metro cases were at 2392 yesterday, down from peaks in the high teens earlier in the outbreak and just ahead of Canterbury’s total yesterday of 2122.

There were 876 new cases in Capital and Coast and 483 in Hutt Valley yesterday, while smaller areas such as Hawke’s Bay had 712, MidCentral 774 and Nelson Marlborough 578.

The outbreak was developing more slowly and there was a more sustained peak in the regions, Bloomfield said.

There was also a pattern of lower hospitalisation rates in the regions, he said.

Tairāwhiti, for example, had the highest case rate in the country over the past two weeks, but had only ever had a handful of hospitalisations.

Nationally, there were 764 people in hospital yesterday, 31 of them in intensive care.

The unvaccinated continue to be over-represented in hospitals, and the vaccination rollout for Māori has again come under fire.

Just over 88 per cent of Māori aged over 12 have received two doses of the vaccine and 57.7 per cent of those eligible have had a booster dose, compared to the national 12+ double-dose rate of 95.1 per cent and 72.7 boosted.

Rates are also lagging for tamariki Māori, of whom 34.9 per cent have had one dose and 7.8 per cent two, far below the national 5 to 11 years’ vaccination rate of 54 per cent for one dose and 17 per cent two doses.

A new international misinformation study confirmed the alarm many were desperately trying to raise last year about the impact on Māori during the initial vaccine rollout, National Māori Pandemic Group co-leader Rawiri McKree Jansen said.

The Journal of the Royal Society Interface study showed misinformation made it harder to stop illness from spreading during a pandemic, and conspiracy theories spread through communities already distrustful of authority.

As the Māori population was younger, many had to wait to be eligible to get their vaccine dose, which was initially rolled out mostly by age, starting with oldest first.

“They [were] exposed to a significant amount of misinformation for longer”, McKree Jansen said.

“That’s created a problem for us in terms of getting the momentum for the vaccination programme into the right place.”

The unvaccinated were being hit hardest by the Omicron wave, and Māori were now dying with Covid-19 because of the misinformation they had been exposed to, McKree Jansen said.

Those dying in Māori and Pacific communities were in their 40s, 50s and 60s, rather than older people in other populations.

Māori and Pacific populations should have been prioritised in the vaccine rollout, he said.

The Waitangi Tribunal has also released a scathing ruling of the government’s Covid-19 response and vaccine rollout, saying Māori were put at risk.

The tribunal said Cabinet’s decision to go against official and expert advice and not prioritising Māori breached the Treaty principles of active protection and equity.

Vaccination events targeting tamariki Māori and their whānau are underway today and tomorrow in Bay of Plenty.

Iwi-led Covid-19 vaccination events were planned in Katikati, Tauranga, Te Puke, Kawerau, Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne today, the Ministry of Health said. More information was on the Bay of Plenty District Health Board website.

Tauranga and Whakatāne would have events on Sunday as well, and parents and whānau could get vaccinated alongside their children.

“There will be kai, stress-free spaces, and activities for everyone.”

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