NZ’s covid-19 response still one of the best worldwide, says health expert

Professor Michael Baker
Professor Michael Baker ... still optimistic about the future. Image: Samuel Rillstone/RNZ

RNZ News

A public health expert says New Zealand’s covid-19 response is still one of the best in the world, two years after the first case was discovered here.

Two years ago today, the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in New Zealand, in a recent returnee.

The entire country would go into lockdown for the first time less than a month later.

As New Zealand marks two years of living with covid-19, 14,633 new community cases of the virus were announced yesterday alone and a total of 56 people have died from it.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said there were also 344 community cases of the cases in hospital and five in ICU.

This was less than a record 14,941 community cases reported yesterday.

Lowest death rate in OECD
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker of Otago University said this country still had the lowest death rate from covid-19 in the OECD by a large margin.

“The pandemic is now thought to have killed about 20 million people across the globe,” he said.

“And they’re mainly in countries where, obviously, they’ve had limited resources, or they’ve had very poor leadership from the governments.

“It’s interesting to see, in somewhere like Russia, the pandemic has now killed almost 0.8 percent of the entire population.”

The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre reported 86,140 cases of covid-19 and 56 deaths today.

The centre reported more than 435 million cases of the virus and 5.9 million deaths globally.

Professor Baker said he was still optimistic about the future, highlighting that life expectancy in New Zealand had risen by about eight months over the course of the pandemic — one of the only countries in which this has happened.

Russian life expectancy dropped
By comparison, the life expectancy of Russian residents had dropped by about two years, he said.

“We haven’t seen those kinds of impacts since the Second World War.”

Professor Baker said the outbreak would peak over the next month before declining. He warned that New Zealand would see tens of thousands of new infections every day, and the total number of people with covid-19 was likely to be much higher than the number of people that get tested.

However, he said New Zealand had fared well compared to other countries.

“By delaying the arrival of the omicron variant, it’s given us a good opportunity to get highly vaccinated and boosted. And also, we have what is called peak immunity, because we’ve had our vaccine doses and boosters very recently and that means we’re ready to meet this virus with a lot of antibodies.”

The Ministry of Health said more than two thirds of eligible New Zealanders had now had their booster dose, with 28,836 people receiving their boosters on Saturday.

Four people were arrested at the Parliament grounds anti-covid public health protest overnight — two for breaking bail conditions, one for possessing an offensive weapon and one for trespass.

Police said the number of protesters had shrunk to about 200 people.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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