New Zealand is currently experiencing its fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is causing a substantial increase in infections. With 7881 new reported cases over the past week, including probable cases, the number has significantly risen from the previous week. Hospitalization rates have also increased, as well as the detection of the virus in wastewater surveillance.
According to the data from ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research), the amount of virus detected per person in wastewater has doubled in just one month. This surge in cases and detection levels suggests that New Zealand may be encountering a glimpse of its long-term future with the coronavirus.
Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist from Otago University, explained that the current wave seems to have reached higher peaks in both wastewater and hospitalizations compared to the previous wave. These indicators provide insights into what can be expected in the long term, including the possibility of recurring peaks and troughs.
Although the current wave is not projected to reach the same height as the wave that occurred in 2022, which had a much larger baseline, there is no evidence of a game-changing new subvariant contributing to the surge. The latest data shows a mix of Omicron subvariants driving the spread, with the EG.5 or “Eris” type and its relatives being the most prevalent.
As the wave progresses, regional variation is becoming apparent, with some parts of New Zealand reaching their peak while others continue to experience rising cases. Despite this regional variation, it is evident that New Zealand is currently facing a significant wave that demands a response.
Looking towards the future, Professor Baker emphasizes the need for a “national approach” in managing these peak periods. With a large number of people falling ill, seeking hospitalization, and unfortunately, experiencing increased mortalities, a unified response is crucial. Baker highlights the importance of promoting boosters, providing support for self-isolation, and establishing consistent policies regarding ventilation standards and mask use in healthcare settings.
In addition, Baker and his colleagues have called on the government to establish a dedicated center for disease control. Taking inspiration from similar centers in the United States and Australia, this would better prepare New Zealand for future pandemics.
- How many new Covid-19 cases were reported in New Zealand over the past week? – There were 7881 new reported cases, including probable cases.
- Have hospitalization rates increased alongside the rise in cases? – Yes, hospitalization numbers have increased from 284 to 349 week-on-week.
- What does the data from wastewater surveillance indicate? – The data shows that the amount of virus detected per person has doubled in just one month.
- Is this fifth wave expected to reach the same height as the 2022 wave? – No, it is not projected to reach the same height as it is growing off a lower base.
- What is driving the spread of the virus in New Zealand? – The spread is being driven by a mix of Omicron subvariants, with the EG.5 or “Eris” type and its relatives being the most prevalent.
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