Coronavirus: Ashley Bloomfield defends NZ's elimination strategy, responds to Kiwis saying COVID-19 is 'just like the flu'

Ashley Bloomfield has issued a scathing takedown of those peddling misinformation that COVID-19 is just like influenza, saying the data makes clear "it is a far more serious illness".

The two viruses have frequently been compared during the COVID-19 pandemic - particularly by critics of New Zealand's elimination strategy, who question why the country should be locked down when the Government doesn't take the same approach to the flu.

But at Tuesday's daily COVID-19 press conference, during which it was revealed New Zealand's community caseload had grown to 148, the Director-General of Health rubbished the comparison by utilising one of his own.

"Scotland, similar population [to New Zealand]," Dr Bloomfield said. 

"If we had followed the route they had, we'd have had around 10,000 people die by now, in about 20 months. Annually, we have around 600 influenza-related deaths."

Scotland has a population of 5.45 million, while New Zealand's just ticked over 5 million last year.

Based on the figures highlighted by Dr Blomfield, New Zealand could expect that since last February - when COVID-19 first arrived on New Zealand's shores - there would have been roughly 10,000 COVID-19 deaths and 1000 flu deaths.

That makes COVID-19 about 10 times more deadly over that timeframe.

"So there's a magnitude of difference," Dr Bloomfield said. "And that's not counting all the people who may have been infected, many of whom we are seeing from studies around the world may have ongoing symptoms, long COVID.

"It is a far more serious illness - and even in the UK now, with the rates of infection they have with a high vaccination rate, it's the equivalent of around nine or 10 deaths a day in New Zealand.

"When you extrapolate that out, that is still way more than we get annually from influenza."

Earlier, Dr Bloomfield condemned another form of COVID-19 misinformation: text scams.

It comes after Lincoln University staff and students were targeted with fake text messages incorrectly telling them they had tested positive for the disease last week.

Hamish Cochrane, Lincoln University's COVID-19 critical incident lead, told Newshub those affected could tellthe information was fake because test results would be sent by the Ministry of Health or a DHB, rather than the university.

Dr Bloomfield added on Tuesday another way to tell if you were receiving fake positive test results was if you received them by text message.

"Anyone whose test result is positive will get a phone call; negative results are texted," he explained.