New Zealand braces for rising Covid cases as expert warns of potential explosion

New Zealand is bracing for increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases after recording 94 new infections over the weekend, while pandemic modellers say that if the government stays its current course new cases will quickly top 100 n dag.

“We are on the exponential growth curve,” an epidemiologist and public health professor, Michael Baker, gesê. “If you look at the trend, it’s clearly going up in Auckland, and it’s not just the total cases but also the unexplained cases, which suggests transmission in the community is increasing.”

Baker said that if the government kept its current restrictions, or loosened them further by reopening schools, as announced last week, “there’s only one way it can go and that’s up”.

“This is really simple. This is where every epidemiologist and disease modeller will agree 100%. Don’t do it.”

Case numbers began rising steadily soon after the government loosened restrictions in Auckland, the centre of the Delta outbreak, from a level 4 to level 3 inperking. Cases have since spread beyond the city’s borders, cropping up in Northland and Waikato.

Maandag, the government announced another 35 gevalle, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the outbreak to 1,622. According to the Ministry of Health, 29 of the previous day’s cases were infectious in the community, en 21 of the cases announced had not yet been linked to existing cases.

Verlede week, the government announced a new “steps” system for Auckland to reduce restrictions ​​in the coming weeks, subject to case numbers: first allowing outdoor gatherings, then gradually reopening some schools and allowing retail and hospitality to restart.

Baker said that with Auckland’s outbreak growing, following those steps would be a mistake and could cause the outbreak to explode.

“You go down the alert level system when the outbreak is coming under control," hy het gesê. “You don’t go down the system when the outbreak is increasing. This is basic infectious disease epidemiology.”

Pandemic modellers for research centre Te Punaha Matatini said New Zealand’s outbreak currently had an R value (or reproduction value) of about 1.2 of 1.3. If it reached 1.5, case numbers would double every eight days.

Michael Plank from Te Pūnaha Matatini and University of Canterbury told Stuff that New Zealand was “on the knife-edge”.

“Any further loosening of restrictions until we have got a picture of what the consequence of the most recent easing was could potentially cause things to spiral very rapidly.”

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, was due to announce the next steps for pandemic control in Auckland later on Monday.

In recent days, cases have begun spreading to healthcare workers: three workers at Auckland City Hospital and two at North Shore Hospital have tested positive. Three people at Mt Eden prison have also tested positive.

Sover 55% of the eligible New Zealand population (those aged 12 en oor) are fully vaccinated, en 79% have had at least one dose.

On Monday morning, the government said it had signed a deal for 60,000 doses of a new antiviral, molnupiravir, that significantly reduces risk of severe Covid illness.

Merck, the manufacturer, said that in a trial the drug treatment cut hospitalisations and deaths by half.

Ardern gesê: “Antiviral medicines are an additional tool the government is adding to our toolbox to fight Covid-19.

“The most important thing people can do to prevent themselves, children and vulnerable people getting Covid is to get vaccinated. Egter, it’s important we have medicines to help those who pick up the virus to avoid having to go to hospital.”

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