16 Apr 2023

'It's the first distinct rise' - Fourth wave of Covid-19 is here, says epidemiologist Michael Baker

5:46 pm on 16 April 2023
Collage of two sick people

An epidemiologist says the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections is under way. Photo: 123rf.com / Composite Image - RNZ

Epidemiologist Michael Baker says that the country is experiencing its fourth wave of Covid-19 infection and warns people to stay vigilant.

He said it is not as intense as the previous waves but it is definite, with a gradual rise in the number of self-reported cases every day, as seen in RNZ's ongoing database of Covid-19 information.

"It's the first distinct rise, a sustained rise in cases this year.

"We've seen that numbers reached a low point in February and have been tracking up since then."

The average number of daily cases sits at about 2000 at the moment, but Baker said the actual number could be higher with people less inclined to test and report.

He said other indicators including the number of hospitalisations, people in intensive care units, deaths and traces of the virus in wastewater are also pointing to a new wave.

He encourages people to get the new Covid booster, isolate if they are infected, and mask up in poorly ventilated environments.

"It's really important that everyone who has a position in authority thinks about the health of their workforce and their school population and the social venues that they operate in."

Baker also said that the Ministry of Education should provide monitors to reduce transmission in early childhood centres.

He also encourages people to mask up on public transport.

"If you are on a bus commuting ... or train, you are going to be in that indoor environment for many hours every week and the ventilation is poor, so that would be a situation where I think masks should still be worn by everyone."

Last week, Cabinet decided to keep the few remaining Covid-19 restrictions for at least the next two months.

Most pandemic rules have been scrapped, but people still have to self-isolate for seven days if they test positive, and masks must be worn in hospitals in some circumstances.

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