Dr Ashley Bloomfield clarifies difference between COVID-19 and COVID-related deaths

The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has clarified the difference between a COVID-19 death and COVID-19-related death following public confusion.

New Zealand has recorded 26 deaths from the virus so far with the latest announced on Saturday.

The person had been transferred from an MIQ facility to North Shore Hospital on February 5 for treatment of a serious non-COVID related illness but they later tested positive for the virus.

The Ministry of Health announced their death on Saturday but took until Tuesday to add the case was added to the death toll.

"This death has now been included in our official COVID-19 related deaths. A total of 26 people have now died with COVID-19 in New Zealand." 

During the COVID-19 update on Thursday, Dr Bloomfield was asked to clarify the difference between people who have died with COVID-19 and those who have died from COVID-19 and if there was any difference in how they were recorded.

"Right from the start of the pandemic, we have been very inclusive in our approach to our approach of categorising deaths as COVID-19-related deaths," he said. "You might recall when we had a number of deaths last year sadly related to aged residential care. A number of those people had actually not been swabbed because of the nature of their conditions but they were categorised as probable cases because of their symptoms and the situation."

Because of this, their deaths were recorded in New Zealand's COVID-19 death toll.

Dr Bloomfield said a COVID-19 death was someone who died due to COVID-19, while a COVID-19- related death was someone who died while sick with COVID-19.

New Zealand's death toll includes people who have both died with and from COVID-19.

"The latest case we had, someone who had a confirmed COVID-19 infection, whilst they had a significant, serious pre-existing condition, we have categorised the death, as COVID-19-related. Most countries are doing this, for example in the UK they categorise everyone who dies within 28 days of being hospitalised with COVID-19 as being categorised as a COVID-19-related death."