Southern death toll doubles in month to 100

Prof Michael Baker. Photo: supplied
Prof Michael Baker. Photo: supplied
The Covid-19 death toll reached 100 in the Southern region at the weekend, doubling the milestone of 50 deaths reached in the South only last month.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health said 23 people were in southern hospitals with confirmed Covid-19. There were no more deaths reported yesterday.

On Saturday after missing the Matariki public holiday, the ministry reported 24 deaths nationally over the two-day period, including one death in the South.

The death brought the total number of reported Covid deaths in the region to 100 since the pandemic began.

It was only 39 days earlier on May 17, when the bleak milestone of 50 Covid deaths was reached in the South. University of Otago epidemiologist Prof Michael Baker said at the present average of 12 deaths a day, Covid was killing people at about 10 times the rate of the road toll, and about five times the rate of influenza.

The regularly updated count of Covid-19 deaths did need to be viewed with caution for well-established reasons, Prof Baker said.

Yet, there was a great deal of attention and resources focused on Covid-19, so the data would ultimately be far more accurate than for most infectious diseases.

Covid-19 was understood to be an underlying cause of death in 50% of reported cases, it was a contributing cause in 27%, and the death was in fact not related to Covid in 23% of cases, as the person had died and just happened to have Covid.

Nevertheless, the overall conclusion was that a Covid-19 infection was the underlying or contributing cause of more than 75% of the reported 1404 Covid-19 deaths in New Zealand.

About 30,000 people died a year in New Zealand and if Covid killed 3000 people, or more, as the present daily number of reported deaths would indicate, it would add 10% to the country’s mortality rate.

"I just think it’s unacceptable, that level of mortality," Prof Baker said.

"The last huge pandemic in 1918, it swept through the country in six to eight weeks and killed almost 1% of people: that’s absolutely devastating.

"That’s not what the coronavirus is doing in New Zealand - Covid-19, even though it’s very infectious, it’s a slower pandemic wave and also it’s having these successive waves of significantly different variants.

"Flu didn’t do that. It was a stable virus that arrived and it probably infected over half the population in just a few weeks.

"Again, very different from coronavirus ... it’s probably infected half the population by now, but it’s a much slower pandemic wave.

"And we’re going to see new waves caused by other variants."

The Health Ministry yesterday reported 4429 new community cases, 332 current hospitalisations, and six deaths across New Zealand.

There were seven people presently in intensive care or high dependency units.

The average age of people in hospital with Covid was 61.

On Saturday, when it included numbers from the Matariki public holiday on Friday, there were 8638 new community cases in the two days, the ministry said.





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