The most common pre-existing condition in Kiwis who've died whilst infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 to date is cardiovascular disease, data released by the Ministry of Health on Friday shows.
Earlier this week Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the ministry would now separate deaths determined to be the result of COVID-19 from those where the person was infected with the virus, but the exact cause of death is to be established.
"The clinical criteria will continue to be guided by WHO definition which is basically to report any death where the person had an acute COVID-19 infection regardless of what the cause of death might be," Dr Bloomfield explained on Wednesday.
The change came a day before it was confirmed a man shot and killed last week tested positive for the virus after his death - which is being counted, for now, in the official COVID-19 figures while police investigate.
His death brought the toll of those who've died with the virus to 33. The figures on which had pre-existing conditions released on Friday go up to Wednesday, when the death toll was 32.
Of those, nine had cardiovascular disease. This is not unexpected, since the elderly are not only most at risk of dying from COVID-19, but more likely to have cardiovascular disease.
The second-most common pre-existing condition was diabetes, which affected seven of the victims. Type 2 diabetes is also more prevalent in older age groups, while obesity is a known risk factor for COVID-19. Around a third of all Kiwi adults are considered obese.
Five of the 32 had chronic lung disease, four neurological or neuromuscular disease and two renal failure.
One was listed as having 'malignancy', while eight were listed with 'other underlying condition'. It's not clear how many had no pre-existing conditions known to be risk factors, as the ministry notes some might have had more than comorbidity.
"Deaths being investigated by the coroner will remain under investigation until the coroner’s finding has been determined," a Ministry of Health spokesperson said in a statement. "The ministry will report this information daily on its website. This reflects that it can take some time for the coroner to determine their findings.
"Work is also underway at the ministry to look at how further information on those who have died with COVID-19 can be reported such as comorbidities in a way that protects the private medical information of those involved."