Covid complacency

The present surge in Covid cases is just what we did not need in the run-up to Christmas.

Reported cases have increased in what is being called a fifth Covid wave.

More significantly, because so many people will not report these days, wastewater monitoring shows a steep climb.

The wave will sweep over different parts of the country at slightly differing times.

Noticeably, the wastewater peak in Otago might have just passed while Southland’s might still be to arrive.

Covid is inexorably infiltrating those who thought they might have escaped this dreaded lurgy over the past three years.

Others are catching these newer variants as their second or third brush with Covid.

At some stage, we had to live "normally" with the virus in our midst. In August the government threw up the white flag and restrictions are all but gone. Recommendations are mild.

So be it. Nonetheless, like Covid itself, complacency has spread.

WellSouth Primary Network has noted the recent spike was a good reminder of Covid-19’s presence in the community and that it still posed a threat to our older whānau and loved ones who had compromised immune systems.

From mid-July to mid-October, there was about one death a week from Covid-19, according to WellSouth.

But in the past three weeks, the average in Otago and Southland had been six a week — a total of 19.

The figures match general gossip. Many people will know of others catching Covid in this wave.

We hear, too, of occasions which would have once been described as superspreader events because of the numbers catching Covid there.

Covid’s impact varies enormously. Some people are flattened for days. Others have few symptoms. The virus lingers or rebounds for some. There are still concerning cases of "long Covid".

Complacency shows itself in the lack of people testing themselves and the lack of reporting, compared to the Covid in wastewater.

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Image: ODT files
No doubt, some are ignoring even the now limited five-day recommended isolation period. No doubt, many are pushing themselves too soon rather than letting their bodies recover properly.

No doubt, many close contacts are not rapid antigen testing during those five days. That is the official advice now, although close contacts are not expected to isolate.

It is, of course, common for Covid to spread among members of the same household.

It is also telling that half of those aged over 50 have not had their second booster shot.

People also need reminding about the antiviral (Paxlovid) course available free through pharmacies or GPs for those over 65, for Māori and Pacific people aged over 50 and for those with long-term health conditions or who are immunocompromised.

These should be taken as soon as possible after a positive test.

This wave is surging despite warmer weather and therefore more ventilation and more socialising outdoors.

While it is unrealistic to expect a return to widescale mask use, those coming out of Covid and those at added risk would be wise to mask up at events with crowds.

We are herd animals who, mostly, find it uncomfortable to stand out.

Hopefully, enough people can wear masks to encourage others to do so when they should.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich is among the latest to succumb. He has been criticised by Cr David Benson-Pope for "downplaying" the Covid spike and being slow to officially inform council staff about his personal situation.

Cr Benson-Pope was concerned the council had known about the spike in the wastewater but had failed to say anything publicly.

While Mr Radich’s lack of communication on both fronts is hardly a hanging offence, it would have been helpful if he had been more proactive, and more informative.

He already has a history of downplaying Covid after his "no cause for alarm" comments after a cruise ship docked in Dunedin with hundreds of Covid-positive passengers last November.

Another Covid wave is, obviously, not what we wanted for Christmas. At least, however, it can act as an additional warning.

We, and our leaders, cannot take Covid for granted.