5 Mar 2022

'We need to slow this down' - Case drop too soon to celebrate, epidemiologist says

8:08 pm on 5 March 2022

People shouldn't read too much into today's decline in Covid-19 case numbers, epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson says.

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Photo: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

There were 18,833 cases reported today, down by 3694 from yesterday.

But with the number of PCR tests taken on Friday down more than a third on the seven-day rolling average, and people potentially not reporting Rapid Antigen Test results, Prof Jackson said the number should be treated with a grain of salt.

"I hear every day, and frequently every day, of people with symptoms not getting tested and of those with symptoms who do get tested not reporting them.

"I think a lot of people have given up reporting, so I take next to no notice of the cases anymore. I look at the hospitalisations and the deaths."

Both those figures continued to rise today, with five more deaths reported.

Some had optimistically speculated Auckland had reached the peak of the Omicron outbreak.

But Prof Jackson said that would not become clear for another few weeks, and people had to remain cautious about the risk of the highly-contagious variant.

Despite talk to the contrary, Hong Kong's Covid death rate showed how deadly Omicron could be.

Epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson.

Epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

"Paradoxically Omicron is a much bigger threat to New Zealand than any other previous variant. We keep on hearing it's mild, but what we should be saying is it's less severe if you're vaccinated," Prof Jackson said.

Hong Kong most recently reported 198 deaths from Covid-19, while the the region's seven-day average of deaths now sat at 134.

Prof Jackson said it was never too late to get vaccinated and a booster, and if people had symptoms they should get tested and act as if they had the virus because a false negative was possible.

"We need to slow this down because I've been talking with Auckland GPs and they're overwhelmed with patients. If you've got symptoms go get tested, if you're positive report it, and if you're positive isolate.

"Wear your mask, keep away from big crowds if you can - we really need to slow this down."

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