15 Aug 2022

Consistent pattern emerging over falling Covid-19 case numbers - expert

9:07 am on 15 August 2022

Wastewater sampling, the testing of groups of workers and daily case numbers all confirm a consistent trend, computational biologist David Welch says.

The number of new daily community cases dropped below the 3000 mark yesterday for the first time since late February.

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Photo: RNZ

In its daily update yesterday, the Ministry of Health said there were 2618 community cases to report, the lowest number since 21 February, when the first Omicron surge began to hit.

The ministry also reported 11 new deaths of people with the coronavirus, as well as 557 people in hospital, including 15 in ICU.

Welch who is from the University of Auckland said there has been a consistent trend and the seven-day average has dropped to about 4500 which was the lowest since February.

"There may be a little less reporting now than there was a while ago but there's no strong signs anywhere else of that, so in terms of case numbers it's looking pretty good."

Wastewater sampling showing similar trends of a fall in the number of overall cases. Groups of workers were still being regularly tested, such as border workers, and that confirmed the downwards trend.

However, the number of people with Covid-19 requiring hospital treatment was still "elevated" and sitting at similar levels to mid-June while the number of deaths was also still quite high.

A lot of that came down to a much older age-group being infected, Welch said.

"Because the risk really of serious illness rises exponentially with age quite a small change in the age distribution can significantly alter the number of hospitalisations."

The main driver of new waves was new variants and there did not seem to be anything disturbing on the horizon at present, Welch told Morning Report. None of the existing Omicron variants seemed to pose a threat of creating a new wave.

Professor Michael Baker told RNZ yesterday that the latest number of Covid-19 cases was a positive sign that numbers were declining.

He said the rolling average of cases declined as well. These numbers suggested that the second wave of the Omicron outbreak was easing, but the next few weeks will make that clearer.

Professor Baker said even though warmer months are coming, Covid-19 doesn't rely on cold conditions to spread.

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