Morbidity on rise as vulnerable age ranges infected

For the first time, just as many southerners are in hospital because of Covid-19 as patients in for something else who just happen to have the disease.

Southern DHB head of Covid-19 response Dr Hywel Lloyd said as case numbers started to wane in some age groups, the virus was infecting vulnerable parts of the population.

Covid-19 continued to spread among those aged 65-plus, and had exploded in aged-care residences. Accordingly hospitalisations in the South remained persistently high, he said.

"Last week, we saw a significant upswing in the ‘because of Covid’ rather than ‘incidental’ Covid [in hospitals]," Dr Lloyd told a health board meeting yesterday.

"We are now at about 50:50 — previously it’s been more around 60:40 in favour of incidental.

"So we have seen an increase in the level of morbidity that we have seen on the wards."

Early on in the Omicron outbreak, new cases in the South were largely within the student-aged population in Dunedin.

As the virus spread throughout the community, the proportion of cases affecting the older end of the spectrum had grown.

The number of infected residents of aged care facilities across the region could be easing after it shot up from just over 20 on April 6 to nearly 180 residents infected in the space of about two weeks, he said.

At yesterday’s Southern DHB board meeting, Dr Lloyd showed board members that on a national level, modelling had been accurate and the peak, seen in the seven-day average, came when expected and case numbers peaked almost as high as expected.

In the South, the seven-day average indicated something of a peak had passed, he said.

"But we’ve plateaued at a much higher level than the national data, so that’s causing some ongoing issues, with the volume of ongoing new cases.

"And as we know, there’s always a lag between the admissions and the Covid case numbers."

The Southern DHB reported 24 patients in Dunedin Hospital with Covid-19 yesterday, seven in Southland, and one in Dunstan.

There were 947 new positive cases, the SDHB said.

 - The Ministry of Health said there were 9109 new community cases, 481 hospitalisations and 20 deaths to report nationally.

One of those deaths was in the South.

One person was in their 50s; three were in their 60s; three in their 70s; eight in their 80s and five were over 90.

Of these people, 12 were women and eight were men, the ministry said.



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