New Zealand now has one of the highest levels of Covid-19 transmission in the world, researchers have said – an extraordinary turnaround for a country that succeeded in curbing the spread of the virus during much of the pandemic.
Covid-19 modelers at Rako Science calculated that New Zealand’s effective reproduction number – or R-value – is 4.23, meaning that the average infected person passes Omicron on to more than four people. This gives New Zealand the highest R-value of more than 180 countries by a wide margin, with Myanmar recording the second-highest spread rate at 2.98.
The country is in the in the middle of an Omicron surge, with 334 people hospitalized and 14,633 cases reported on Monday, including Environment Minister David Parker, who became the first MP to say he tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic. In a tweet, he said he was self-isolating at home and had not been to Parliament, or with other MPs or staff, for a week.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker said he was “not at all surprised” at the high R-value at this point, in part because the rest of the world had gone through outbreaks of Omicron before.
Another reason for the sudden rise in the R value could be due to the introduction of the rapid antigen test (RAT) last week, which made the test faster and more convenient, he said. “More and more people have continued to get tested, so we’re seeing a huge spike in cases… It’s not that the iceberg is bigger, you’re just seeing more.”
Baker cautioned against paying too much attention to a changing R-value rate, which can be skewed by changes in testing methods, in favor of closely monitoring hospitalization rates. These rates gave a better and more consistent idea of the progress of the epidemic, he said.
New Zealand’s first case of Covid-19 was detected two years ago on Monday. Baker said while it was “quite ironic that two years later we are facing the most extreme transmission of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic”, it was remarkable that New Zealand had achieved the lowest mortality rate in the OECD, by a huge margin. The country has reported 61 deaths in the pandemic.
Meanwhile, surging community cases could force the government to rethink its border settings, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday morning. There were nearly 30,000 cases over the weekend, compared to 47 at the border. The first of five phases of the border reopening plan began on Monday, with vaccinated New Zealanders and other visa holders arriving from Australia able to skip managed isolation and self-isolate at home for seven days.
Speaking to RNZArdern said the cabinet will discuss and make decisions on Monday regarding further changes to border requirements.
“We really wanted to make sure that during this period of treatment with Omicron, we carefully relax the border so that we don’t necessarily overburden our healthcare system,” Ardern said. “But with so many cases in New Zealand now, it makes sense to look at those parameters.”
Baker said there is no longer much public health justification for continued border controls, as “people arriving from overseas will not contribute to the disease burden.”
“We’ve almost gotten to the point where people arriving in New Zealand have a lower prevalence of Omicron infection than people who live in New Zealand.”
Previously virus-free New Zealand now has one of the highest Covid transmission rates in the world | New Zealand
Source link Previously virus-free New Zealand now has one of the highest Covid transmission rates in the world | New Zealand