Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: New Zealand never at more risk of catching the virus

New Zealanders have never been more at risk of catching Covid-19 despite most parts of the country passing their peak number of daily infections, a top expert says.

And if parents want to lessen the chance of their children being infected, now is the time to take them out of school, public health expert Michael Baker says.

“Half of the people who will get infected are yet to get infected … the virus is still very common everywhere in New Zealand.”

His comments come after 10 more deaths linked to the virus were reported today with more than 18,500 new infections in the community.

This took the number of publicly reported Covid-related deaths to 166, and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to eight, according to the Ministry of Health.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases was 17,641, down slightly from 17,673 yesterday.

The big message was we are not in the clear and won’t be for the foreseeable future, Baker said.

“No one should feel that suddenly just because the peak has passed in my area I don’t need to worry, we certainly aren’t in the all-clear.”

The epidemiologist said it would take a long time for cases to start to drop in schools especially.

“If parents were trying to lessen the chance of their child getting infected, then now would be the time to start thinking about taking them out of school.”

In about six weeks, Baker expected daily infections across the country to drop to several thousand cases but could remain at that number for some time.

“It’s crucial people keep those precaution habits such as mask wearing and social distancing.”

While it was unlikely people who had already been infected would catch the virus again for three months, they were not bulletproof, Baker said.

There were 939 people in hospital as of Saturday, including 24 in intensive care. The average age of those hospitalised was 57. On Thursday, hospitalisation rates peaked to 930.

Despite hospitalisation rates dropping, Baker said healthcare workers would still be flat out and the pressure on our health system would not be easing anytime soon.

Of the 10 latest people to have died, one was from Northland, three were from Auckland, one from Waikato, two were from Bay of Plenty, two were from the Lakes DHB area and one was from Wellington.

One was in their 40s, two were in their 60s, four in their 80s and three in their 90s. Six were women and four were men.

Baker said he was shocked there were still 1 million people needing their booster shot as two doses weren’t enough to protect you from becoming severely ill with Covid.

He was also disappointed with the rates of child vaccinations, urging parents not to take the risk and to get them jabbed swiftly.

“Most kids should be due for their second jab by now and parents should remember that most vaccinations are done before the age of two so there was nothing to worried about, child vaccinations were completely normal,” Baker said.

Nationally, 95 per cent of people aged 12 and over have received at least two vaccinations, with 72.8 per cent of those eligible having also received their booster.

For Māori aged over 12, 87.9 per cent are double-dosed and 58.9 per cent of those eligible for a booster had received it. Pacific peoples aged over 12 are 96.2 per cent double-dosed and 59.6 per cent of those eligible have been boosted.

There are now 53.7 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 with at least one dose of the vaccine recorded. Just over 6 per cent have also had their second shot.

Rates for tamariki Māori continue to lag, at 34.4 per cent for one dose and 3 per cent for two.

Of Pacific peoples aged 5 to 11, 46.5 per cent have had one dose and 3.4 per cent two doses.

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