Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: 15,871 new community Covid cases, 13 new deaths

There are 15,871 new community Covid cases today and 13 new deaths, including a person in their 30s.

As rules for big events relax, new Ministry of Health figures show there are 899 people in hospital with 27 of them in intensive care.

Dr Andrew Old, NRHCC Chief Clinical Officer, The Fono’s chief executive officer Tevita Funaki, Southseas’ chief executive Lemalu Silao Vaisola and Southpoint Family Doctors’ Dr Fiona Shepherd gave an update at Mangere’s Malaeola Community Centre this afternoon.

From tomorrow, there is no limit on outdoor gatherings and the limit for indoor events increases from 100 to 200 people. But the experts urged people to attend events safely and think about the families they would return home to.

Old said while cases were coming down “quite steeply”, everyone should protect themselves with masks and social distancing. He said “past the peak doesn’t mean out of the woods” and reminded people we were continuing to get thousands of cases per day.

Case numbers had declined consistently for two weeks in Auckland and are a third of what they were at the peak of the outbreak. New hospital admissions were falling but still around 100 people per day were being admitted in the northern regions.

Old said people should enjoy the weekend but stay home if sick and get a test – and report that test result.

“With greater mixing comes greater risk,” Old said.

We are all interconnected – so while people were out there making decisions for themselves, Old urged people to think of those more vulnerable.

The health system would continue to be challenged for some time. The pressures continued to be “coming off” but they were still significant.

No additional Covid beds had been opened.

“We will never get back the capacity we had lost due to some of the deferrals,” he said.

Support for Pacific families

Old said Pacific people had made up about 28 per cent of Omicron cases during this outbreak. But those case numbers peaked at 50 per cent.

They made up 43 per cent of hospitalisations – but this peaked at over 60 per cent.

Funaki said the pandemic continued to hit Pacific peoples hard – more than 70,000 had contracted the virus since August last year.

Support continued for churches and communities with pop up events. They were continuing to support the NRHHC to in turn support those isolating at home. There were daily check-ins of those in the high priority groups.

A Pacific model of care, which was developed for Delta, was again deployed for Omicron.

Shepherd said each day, teams at a hub determined what level of care families needed. Some families required a daily call or in other cases they may need food or welfare support.

It was a well oiled, collaborative and coordinated approach, she said.

“We know that the pandemic has hit many Pacific peoples really hard. As a GP, I see just how hard it is for families.”

While people were most likely excited to attend big sports events this weekend, she urged people to do so safely and think about the families they would return home to.

On reports that families are struggling and whether support for Pasifika families had been enough, Old said the sheer volume of cases had been challenging and the support provided by Pacific providers had been good.

Funaki said there were levels of anxiety among Pasifika families. Funaki said the goal was to connect with impacted families with 24 hours.

They were also particularly mindful of Pacific people living on their own.

Funaki said it remained to be seen whether there was a long tail in terms of impact on Pacific families.

The full numbers

Of the 13 deaths, four people are from the Auckland region, one is from Bay of Plenty, one is from Waikato, one is from the Hawke’s Bay, one is from Taranaki, one is from MidCentral, and four are from the Wellington region.

One of the people to die was in their 30s, three were in their 60s, five were in their 70s, three were in their 80s, and one was in their 90s. Eight were men and five were women.

Old said 2981 of today’s cases were in Auckland, 510 people are hospitalised with the virus in the region and 11 people are in ICU in Auckland.

The spread of the new cases are: Northland (558), Auckland (2,982), Waikato (1,432), Bay of Plenty (1,024), Lakes (420), Hawke’s Bay (873), MidCentral (814), Whanganui (330), Taranaki (591), Tairāwhiti (224), Wairarapa (251), Capital and Coast (1,063), Hutt Valley (567), Nelson Marlborough (519), Canterbury (2,659), South Canterbury (251), Southern (1245), West Coast (59); Unknown (9).

The spread of cases in hospital is, Northland: 25; North Shore: 150; Middlemore: 209; Auckland: 151; Waikato: 78; Bay of Plenty: 43; Lakes: 13; Tairāwhiti: 3, Hawke’s Bay: 40; Taranaki: 13; Whanganui: 1; MidCentral: 21; Hutt Valley: 12; Capital and Coast: 42; Wairarapa: 3; Nelson Marlborough: 13; Canterbury: 57; South Canterbury: 3; West Coast: 1; Southern: 21.

The average age of those in hospital is 58 years.

“Every hospitalisation is a reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent severe illness from Covid-19. 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,” said the ministry.

“So, if you’re due any dose of the vaccine, please get vaccinated as soon as possible to ensure you are well protected against Omicron.”

The seven day rolling average of community cases is 17,197.

Of yesterday’s new community cases 360 were detected by PCR tests and 15,511 were detected using Rapid Antigen Tests.

Latest ministry vaccination figures show that 4,054,392 eligible people aged 12 and above have had their first dose (96.3 per cent), 4,001,578 have had their second dose (95.1 per cent), and 2,566,414 have been boosted. The ministry says this is 72.7 per cent of those eligible).

Of those aged 5-11 years, 256,481 have had their first dose (53.8 per cent ) and 55,242 their second dose (11.6 per cent).

The ministry said almost four per cent of people aged 12 and over in the northern region had no doses of the vaccine, while of those aged 12 and over in Northland and Auckland hospitals with Covid-19 for whom the vaccination status was recorded, 17.8 per cent had no doses and were more than four times over-represented in hospitalisation figures.

There are now 120,371 active Covid cases in the community. Yesterday there were 29 new cases at the border.

Yesterday

Yesterday, there were 18,423 new Covid cases – a drop from the more than 20,000 cases recorded on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yesterday there were 11 new deaths, and 913 people were in hospital, 28 of them in intensive care units.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the deaths took the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 221, and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 10.

Of the 11 deaths, two people were from the Auckland region, two from Bay of Plenty, six from Waikato, and one from the Wellington region. Six were men and five were women.

The ministry urged people to continue to get vaccinated against the virus.

“Every hospitalisation is a reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated to prevent severe illness from Covid-19. 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.”

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the uptake of vaccinations had been “as high as I might have aspired to and higher than I might have expected”.

He said regarding vaccine hesitancy, monthly surveys had been occurring since late 2020 and they had been monitored throughout.

Specifically, with the vaccination for children, parents and guardians did have specific issues around safety that they are wanting to make sure of.

This explained the slower uptake around tamariki, he said.

“I think what we have done is turn vaccine hesitancy into high vaccination rates, he said.

“We have learnt a lot and, given what we were facing, the levels of vaccine uptake was remarkable.”

High vaccination coverage and widespread Covid infection had paved the way for the Government to remove vaccine mandates in education, police and Defence workforces and the need for businesses to use vaccine passes from April 4.

They would still be required in health and aged care, Corrections and border workforces, as announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week.

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes said the public sector was in a good position because of high vaccination rates and mandates for some agencies.

But he added potentially rehiring workers let go because of vaccine mandates was “a matter for each agency chief executive to consider”.

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) said an assessment of its Covid protocols and guidance, including its vaccination policy, was under way in light of the Government’s announcement.

Oranga Tamariki also said its vaccination policy was currently under review and would consider the impending removal of some mandates.

Employment lawyer Jordan Boyle, from Dyhrberg Drayton, said people who lost their jobs for refusing a vaccine did not have any legal recourse to get their jobs back as many mandates were soon to be removed.

“As soon as the employment relationship is terminated, any obligation that the employer has to the employee doesn’t exist,” Boyle said.

However, he explained, it was different for those still working out notice periods.

“There are still good faith obligations between the parties and obviously any substantive justification for the dismissal no longer exists in theory, once the mandates are no longer applicable.”

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