There are 8810 new community cases of Covid-19 reported today by the Ministry of Health.
A further 18 deaths have also been reported, which includes people who have died over the past 5 days. The total number of Covid-linked deaths has now risen to 396 with a seven-day rolling average of 20.
Of today’s reported deaths, two were from Northland, seven from the Auckland region, three from Waikato, one from Whanganui, one from Hawke’s Bay, one from the Wellington region, two from Canterbury, and one from Southern.
One person was in their 30s, three in their 60s, eight in their 70s, three in their 80s, and three were over 90. Twelve of them were men, six were women.
There are 690 people with Covid-19 in hospital, 26 of whom are in intensive care. The average age of those in hospital is 59.
The spread of hospitalisations is: Northland: 27, Waitemata: 106, Counties Manukau: 135, Auckland: 98, Waikato: 73, Bay of Plenty: 30, Lakes: 13, Tairāwhiti: 3, Hawke’s Bay: 37, Taranaki: 19, Whanganui: 5, MidCentral: 22, Hutt Valley: 18, Capital and Coast: 14, Nelson Marlborough: 17, Canterbury: 44, Southern: 29.
Today is the first time New Zealand’s daily case total has dipped below 10,000 since February 24, when 6137 cases were reported.
While a Ministry of Health spokesperson was encouraged by the low case numbers, it was not unexpected given testing rates decreased over the weekend.
There were far fewer reports of rapid antigen test results today (16,239) compared with Friday (26,996).
Today’s seven-day rolling average for cases is 13,543, about 3000 less than it was a week ago (16,325).
The latest Covid numbers come after the pandemic’s deadliest week and ahead of the abolition of many vaccine mandates.
Vaccine passes from Monday become optional and mandates will be limited to the health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforce sectors.
Cabinet will also meet tomorrow to consider whether it will move the country – or select regions – from the red traffic light setting to orange, a change that would mean there are no longer limits on how many people can gather indoors.
While Covid deaths are rising, case numbers have been trending downwards and the pressure on the health system has been easing.
Numbers are falling fastest in Auckland, with the city now about four weeks past its Omicron outbreak peak, epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says.
In fact, Auckland case numbers could have already fallen close to what might be a baseline number of daily infections of about 2000 cases a day, he said.
“That means there is an important discussion to have about what set of controls are we moving towards for the rest of the outbreak.”
Under the red setting, indoor events are restricted to a 200-person limit, with everyone seated and separated, and wearing masks unless eating or drinking.
At orange, there are no limits on indoor gatherings, no requirements to be seated or separated, and masks are still required, but can be taken off to eat and drink.
Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank said a move to orange would be “reasonable”, but would still risk another spike in case numbers.
“If you’re indoors, the ventilation is poor, unmasked people are drinking, and there’s unlimited numbers, there’s potential for an uptick in infections across Auckland,” he said.
However, the city has also had Omicron sweep through it, with up to a third of Aucklanders catching it – and thereby having a low chance of recatching it within three months.
This is the main reason why Plank believes a move to orange in Auckland can be justified.
He believes a greater focus should be placed on sustainable measures – such as improved ventilation, and generous leave provisions to encourage sick people to stay home if sick – “as we come to the end of the sprint with Omicron and move into the marathon”.
Currently, 72.7 per cent of Kiwis above 12 years old have had their booster shot. For Māori in that age group, that number drops to 57.5 per cent. It’s slightly higher for Pasifika at 59.3 per cent.
For 5 to 11-year-olds, 54 per cent have received one dose of the Pfizer paediatriac vaccine while only 18.4 per cent are double-dosed.
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