Nine virus-related deaths; 2706 new cases, 432 in hospital

The rolling average of New Zealand’s Covid-19 cases has continued to fall after surpassing 10,000 last month – but modellers don’t expect the rate to drop too much.Photo/Mark Mitchell

2,706 new Covid-19 cases and nine Covid-related deaths were announced today.

There are 432 hospitalized cases, of which 9 are in intensive care.

Nine deaths were reported today, with four from the Auckland region, two from Waikato, one from Canterbury and two from the south.

1 in their 50s, 3 in their 60s, 2 in their 70s, 2 in their 80s, and 1 in their 90s.

Five are women and four are men.

The seven-day rolling average of cases continues to fall – 3655 today, compared to 4230 last Monday.

Weekly hospitalizations averaged 472 today; 570 last Monday.

The locations of hospitalized cases are: Northland (12), Waitematā (63), Counties Manukau (43), Auckland (51), Waikato (71), Bay of Plenty (16), Lakes (11), Hawke’s Bay (20), MidCentral (29), Whanganui (4), Taranaki (12), Wairarapa (2), Capital & Coast (14), Hutt (17), Nelson Marlborough (9), Canterbury (41), West Coast (3) ), South Canterbury (5) and South (9).

A total of 1824 deaths have now been confirmed attributable to Covid-19 (either as an underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor).

The seven-day rolling average increase in the total number of deaths from the virus is now 10.

The rolling average of New Zealand’s Covid-19 cases has continued to fall after surpassing 10,000 last month – but modellers don’t expect rates to drop too much.

Dr Dion O’Neale, Covid-19 Modeling Aotearoa, also said our community case numbers – the lowest since the country’s first Omicron wave began in February – needed to be looked at under reporting.

As of Sunday, the rolling 7-day average was 3733, compared with 4302 the week before, and was above 10,400 in mid-July at the height of the BA.5-driven winter wave.

O’Neill said the number of cases currently below 5,000 a day is “lower than we expected.”

The true number of infections in our community will almost certainly be higher – the numbers reported by the Ministry of Health may account for 40% to 65% of cases – and underreporting appears to be a clear factor in the exceptionally low case counts on some days.

“But after those two peaks, we’ve also had a lot less susceptible people — and now there are fewer infections left.”

More than 3 million New Zealanders may have been exposed to Sars-CoV-2, which would give them anti-viral antibodies in addition to the protection against severe Omicron infection that they received through vaccination.

As the national average of cases has fallen below 20% of the mid-March level, the question remains: where will it bottom?

“In terms of actual infections that are happening in our community, I don’t think we’re going to lower that much.”

The virus’s estimated reproduction number in New Zealand – a measure of the average number of people an infected person directly infects – is now just below one.

Although scientists have observed a strong genetic correlation between BA.5 border cases and community cases, there is also no indication that the country’s reopening to international tourists would trigger any major shift in infections.

O’Neill said the reason for the reversal of the current trend line is either a new variant that manages to evade our built-up immunity, or a rise in reinfection rates as immunity weakens.

At the same time, he said it was positive that hospitalisations were also falling – and a second booster for vulnerable older adults may have played a role here.

The rolling average of Covid-19 hospitalizations was 487 as of Sunday, compared with 587 the week before.

That’s also about half the daily number of patients recorded during the peaks of the first and second waves – although daily deaths are still reported in double digits, making the virus one of the major contributors to the country’s mortality rate .

“Hopefully we can reduce the number of hospitalizations.”

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