6 Jul 2022

Covid-19 isn't done with us yet

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 6 July 2022

You might have been lulled into thinking life was getting back to normal, but as Covid-19 and flu run rampant over winter, it's clear the pandemic isn't done with us yet. 

Express corona test. Positive covid antigen test.

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It's an odd time in the Covid-19 cycle in Aotearoa. 

We've had well over a million cases. Almost 1600 deaths. Most of us know someone who's had the virus. Every day, thousands more cases are announced. 

But the 1pm press conferences are gone. New Zealand's effective response to the emergency phase of the pandemic means the worst-case scenarios of tens of thousands of deaths haven't panned out.

We're not out of the woods, though: on the contrary, the stubbornly high Covid-19 case numbers are adding layers of pressure to a health system which barely manages to get through winter in the best of times. 

And these certainly aren't the best of times, as Aotearoa finds itself in the throes of an unusually severe flu season, with many staff off sick, ICU beds close to capacity, and shortages of critical staff. 

Newsroom senior political reporter Marc Daalder says there's been a curious downturn in the urgency of the Covid-19 response from health authorities. 

"We have about 6900 cases a day, on average, over the last week," he says. 

"That's up from 4900 the previous week. We've gone up 2000 cases a day over the past week – a significant rise." 

Daily deaths are averaging about 14, but Daalder says we know about 20 to 25 percent are later found to be unrelated to Covid-19. 

Despite that, 10 or 11 deaths a day gets you to 3500 deaths a year. 

That's about 10 times the annual road toll. 

And while it pales in comparison to the bleak modelling in the early stages of the pandemic, Daalder says it may have lulled people – including health authorities – into thinking the virus is less severe than it actually is. 

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