COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations, death rate likely to increase - Ministry of Health


The Ministry of Health's latest analysis of Covid-19 shows rising infections, hospitalisations, and likely increasing deaths in the near future.

It expects to see a new peak for the country's current third wave, though the size of the peak is unknown.

The country had experienced two months of declining case numbers during August and September, after a peak in July.

New Zealand's rising numbers are opposite to the global trend, where (in the week ending 30 October), the number of new weekly cases decreased by 17 percent.

Figures from the ministry for the week ending 30 October, show a 25.4 percent increase in cases compared to the previous week.

The seven-day rolling average of reported case rates was 55.9 per 100,000 population, with the highest rates for those in the 45-65 age group (68.8 per 100,000).

Wastewater testing indicated that the number of Covid cases was likely up to 28 percent higher than what was being reported.

The number of hospital admissions with Covid-19 have also increased, and have been increasing since early October.

The rate was highest in the 65+ age group (4.0 per 100,000), followed by the 0-4 age group (1.5 per 100,000).

Wastewater testing and reported case rates used to monitor Covid-19 show rates of the disease have been substantially increasing since early October, the ministry's report said.

Wastewater COVID-19 and reported case numbers
Wastewater COVID-19 and reported case numbers Photo credit: COVID-19 Data Repository by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research

However, deaths attributed to Covid-19 continue to drop.

The ministry said both hospitalisations and deaths lagged behind changes in infection rates, and it was probable they would rise.

Māori and Pacific reported rates are rising, but continue to be lower than those of Europeans.

The seven-day rolling average of reported case among Māori was 37.9 per 100,000 population on 30 October, while among Pacific the number was 33.0 per 100,000 population.

The ministry is concerned that this may be caused by under-reporting.

The Covid-19 related death rate for Māori and Pacific people are higher than for Europeans or other ethnicities (1.9 times higher for Māori, and 2.4 times higher for Pacific peoples).

BA.5 was the dominant subvariant accounting for an estimated 78 percent of cases.

The BA.2.75 (9 percent of cases) and BQ.1.1 (8 percent of cases) variants were both trending upwards, the report said. Both the XBB and BA.2.75 variants were over-represented in terms of reinfections, it said.

Reinfections are also playing a greater role in the pandemic.

'Reinfection' is now defined as a case reported at least 29 days after the last time a person reported a positive test for Covid-19. Reinfections made up 11.9 percent of the reported cases.

In its regular report, the Ministry of Health also noted it has changed the population used to estimate rates.

Previously, the population estimates were based on the 2020 Health Service User (HSU) dataset, as estimated at 1 July.

Going forward the population estimate will be based on the 2021 HSU dataset, as of 31 December 2021.

The new dataset is expected to provide more accuracy to the true population of the country. Because of this change all rates have reduced slightly, but the underlying counts of cases, hospital admissions, and deaths have not changed.