New Zealanders are dying from Covid-19 at a record rate as the country battles a new wave of the Omicron strain, with nearly 10,000 cases a day averaging seven days.
The number of deaths from the virus reached 151 in the seven days to July 16, compared with 115 in the worst week of the previous wave in March, according to the Ministry of Health.
In the past 24 hours, 26 people have died from Covid, all over the age of 60, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Omicron BA. 5 sub-option is driving the current wave in New Zealand, home to 5.1 million people, Reuters reports. There have been 64,780 active cases in the past seven days, though authorities say many infections go unreported.
This was stated by public health professor at the University of Otago and expert epidemiologist Michael Baker. ABC that New Zealand’s daily death rate is now “very worrying”.
“I think one of the things that is worrisome … is the high mortality,” said Professor Michael Baker.
“Now he’s reaching the highest level we’ve ever seen, [with] a moving average of about 22 deaths per day. This is with a population of 5.1 million people. So it’s very worrisome.”
In the World Health Organization’s ranking of daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths per million people, New Zealand was one of the worst-performing countries this week. New Zealand has announced a change to how it will report its COVID-19-related deaths, moving to a model that counts cases in death rates only when the disease was the direct cause of death.
Until last year, New Zealand maintained a zero-Covid policy — the population largely remained free of the virus due to tight lockdown measures, aggressive contact tracing and border controls that have forced some of its citizens out of the country.
Despite fierce criticism of the restrictions by some in the country, Jacinda Ardern, the country’s prime minister, has repeatedly defended the rules, saying they save lives.
But last October, the government finally admitted that it could no longer remain Covid-free.
At the time, fewer than 30 deaths were recorded in a country of 5 million.
On Thursday, New Zealand reported 32 COVID-19-related deaths.
Experts believe that New Zealand’s previously low infection rate due to strict Covid restrictions has been responsible for the current high death rate because economically detrimental measures have only delayed “inevitable” infections that could have built-up immunity. MailOnline reports.
Professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist at Nottingham Trent University and a former government adviser, told the publication that experts have long said it would be fairer to judge countries’ responses two years after the initial outbreak.
“New Zealand was able to prevent early waves of infection through tight border controls while other countries developed and tested vaccines,” he said.
“However, in the end, the country failed to escape the foundations of Covid — that the risk of death is strongly related to age, that vaccination mitigates but does not prevent infection, and that the way out of the pandemic lies through the population.” Immunity acquired by both vaccination and infection.
“New Zealand’s policy may have shifted some of the deaths to other countries that have developed vaccines, but in reality only delayed inevitable deaths among its own population, causing significant damage to the economy.”
But Dr. Simon Clark, an infectious disease expert at the University of Reading, told the publication that New Zealand has a high level of protection against Covid. Around 80% of people get a double jab, compared to 75% in the UK and 67% in the US. “Any population-wide immunity that could have been obtained at the beginning of the pandemic at the cost of a large number of deaths has by now dried up. We need to better understand the behavior of the virus before we can draw conclusions.”
Numerous vaccines have helped to moderate the course of the disease in patients since the start of the pandemic, but their effectiveness has waned as the virus has mutated.
Originally published as Covid deaths in New Zealand reach record high