Covid-19: Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay says overall case numbers are dropping, regional spikes occurring


Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay says overall Covid-19 case numbers are dropping but regional spikes are occurring.

In today’s Covid-19 briefing, McElnay was joined via Zoom by Dr Joe Bourne, the Ministry of Health’s lead for Care in the Community.

Watch the update here:

There are 17,148 new cases of Covid-19 in the community and 34 more deaths being reported today.

Despite the deaths being reported today, McElnay says it is encouraging to see an overall and sustained drop in case numbers.

“For three days last week, case numbers were reported at over 20,000 … today’s case number is up a bit (on Monday) but that is to be expected as testing rates are always a bit low over the weekend.”

The reduction in case numbers has been most pronounced in Auckland. Cases have fallen from just under 4300 reported cases last Monday to 2300 yesterday.

McElnay says while numbers overall are dropping, the number of cases in the regions are spiking.

The so-called “Mexican wave of cases” is being reflected the most in Canterbury, she says. “We’re seeing those numbers roll down the country.”

Overall, numbers are expected to continue to decrease over the week.

The only DHBs with increases in numbers are Whanganui, MidCentral, Taranaki and the South Island DHBs.

“That probably tells us that the rest of New Zealand is about a couple of weeks behind Auckland,” McElnay says.

“It gives us a signal of where we hope to be in the next couple of weeks.

“We are optimistic that in the next couple of weeks the rest of the country will follow the same pattern as Auckland and we will see a drop in hospitalisation and a decrease in pressure on our health services.”

McElnay says once you test positive for Covid-19, you should not test again for 28 days.

If you develop new symptoms after that, then test. If you test positive, you are considered a new case and you must isolate again.

Concern over child vaccination rates

McElnay says health authorities are “very concerned” about childhood vaccination rates.

A group is working on trying to get those rates up, she says. That is for vaccinations in general, not just Covid-19.

She says a catch-up on the drop in rates is needed.

The rates were in a pattern of decline before Covid-19 and some of it was linked to the timing of vaccines, McElnay says.

“With Covid, and with the effect of that and families keeping children home … we have continued to see that decline in our rates. We don’t fully understand why that decline has happened. It is something we have seen in other parts of the world, but despite that, we need to get those rates back up.”

McElnay says the ministry monitors vaccine safety but where incidents occur, they are independently assessed, and support is available for families who are affected.

She says she understands the director-general of health will receive advice from the Covid-19 technical advisory group about a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose soon.

This weekend was the start of eased restrictions which the government announced early last week.

Meanwhile, more than 1300 doses of Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine, which has been available since 14 March for those who cannot have the Pfizer jab or would prefer not to, have so far been administered.

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