There are 6152 new community cases of Covid-19, as officials report 49 deaths in the past 24 hours.
The Public Health Agency’s Deputy Director-General Dr Andrew Old gave the update on the Covid-19 response and winter illness, at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
There are 663 people in hospital with the virus.
The Ministry of Health has not yet released the full data breakdown for Thursday, but this information will be added as soon as it is available.
Old said community case rates have continued to trend lower across all regions, dropping 18% in the past week, to July 31.
Cases in those over the age of 65 – one of the groups hardest hit in this most recent surge – have dropped by 21% in the past week.
While we know that some cases will be missed, surveillance among healthcare workers and ongoing wastewater surveillance also supports the conclusion that, “for now at least, we are seeing a true decline in community transmission of Covid-19,” Old said.
However, it was the fifth week in a row we’ve seen a national increase in Covid-19 hospitalisation rates, he said.
Turning to the modelling, Old said cases continue to decline, strongly suggesting New Zealand has reached a peak perhaps slightly earlier than what was modelled.
While hospitalisations were still rising, the expectation was that peak hospitalisations will be at the lower end of what was modelled – instead of 1000 occupied beds on any one day, we are tracking closer to a peak of 850 occupied beds, he said.
Old also announced an improvement to the way Covid-19 vaccination will be reported, effective next week.
From August 8, 233,000 people who used health services in 2021 will be formally added to the population of people in New Zealand that officials use to report Covid-19 vaccination coverage.
Until now, 2020 data has been used to calculate vaccination rates, but from Monday, 2021 data will be used.
Old said it is important to note that these are technical changes, and make no difference to total number of people vaccinated – however it does change the overall rate of vaccination uptake.
The total number of people aged over 12 who have had at least two doses of Covid-19 vaccine has increased 9.6% in the past eight months, from 3.63 million last year, to 3.98m on August 1.
Using the larger data set, coverage of the eligible population over the age of 12 goes from 95% to 90% (across all ethnicities); from 88% to 83% for Māori; and from 97% to 89% for Pacific peoples.
Old was joined virtually by Dr Nick Chamberlain, National Director of the National Public Health Service, Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) to talk about the country’s response to monkeypox.
A third case of monkeypox was detected this week – the first in the South Island. To date, all three cases have been imported, and there is no evidence of community transmission.
Chamberlain said the overall risk remained low, but acknowledged a lot of work was being done behind the scenes on trying to secure smallpox vaccines and antivirals which could be used if and when needed.
However, it was “unlikely” New Zealand would have a prophylactic campaign in advance of community transmission, he said.
MORE TO COME.