While our attention is elsewhere, Jamie Morton reported in the Herald this morning that New Zealand is still experiencing a significant percentage of delta variant covid cases. These are over-represented in sequenced hospitalisations,
The latest data from ESR showed up to seven per cent of cases being genomically sequenced in New Zealand were Delta, which was still making up the majority of sequenced hospital cases.
Around the world, dominant Omicron has effectively squashed Delta: in England, it took just a month to push Delta down from 98 per cent of recorded cases to just 4 per cent of them.
But experts have remained worried that Omicron’s predecessor could linger strongly enough to have an out-sized impact.
As of last month, Delta cases still made up around a third of those in New South Wales intensive care units – yet just a small portion of those found in the community.
Of all Covid-19 cases sequenced in New Zealand over the past two weeks, 5 to 7 per cent of them were Delta, which appeared to be “holding steady”, ESR’s Dr Joep de Ligt said.
One of the issues here is New Zealand’s relatively unique position. Because of our low omicron rates, that variant hasn’t been able to take over to the same extent as overseas. Some of the delta variant infections specific to social events in Auckland have now spread outside the original infection areas to Wellington. This is in effect two epidemics in New Zealand.
ESR’s De Ligt,
Noting Delta’s higher risk of severe disease, de Ligt urged people to get boosted and wear masks.
He said New Zealand would be wise to “keep a wary eye out” and maintain our best efforts to curb the variant.
I want to stop and emphasise this because there are still a number of narratives in various media and among the population that ignore the risk, namely ‘omicron is mild’ and ‘best to let it rip and get it over with’. We don’t know how this is going to play out in New Zealand, we are in a unique position, and there is no evidence yet that ‘let it rip’ is wise.
In addition to the hospitalisation rates from delta, there is the issue of long covid. We don’t know yet how omicron will impact on long covid, and we barely know how delta does. We do however know that vaccination and boosting lowers the risk of contracting covid, and thus lowers transmission rates, and that all our other tools lower both the risk of contracting and transmitting covid as well: well fitted masks, hand washing/sanitising, social distancing, self isolation, testing.
For those that think that long covid is some vague illness over there that is unlikely to affect them, read Lprent’s post The long cost of Covid-19 about post-covid heart disease,
It should be noted that Omicron and Delta won’t be present in these results as they looked at people a year after being infected. But because the causation of these longer-term cardiovascular system effects from Covid-19 isn’t understood at a clinical level and in particular how they manifest long after infection and recovery, I wouldn’t be particularly hopeful that Omicron is any more benign.
For those feeling especially bullet-proof, consider the impact on the health and welfare systems in NZ (not to mention the Budget) of an increase in diseases that require substantial high tech and high costs medical intervention over the next years and decades.
The more people we have infected, the more risk of health care system overload and deaths in the short term, and the more likelihood of increasing numbers of post-viral chronically ill people in our families and communities and systems over the coming months and years.
Otago University virologist Dr Jemma Geoghegan said contact tracing services should give any detected Delta cases priority – although that wouldn’t be so easy with Omicron spreading our resources more thinly.
With New Zealand having had little prior exposure to either variant, she said it was difficult to say just how Omicron and Delta might compete in the community.
Because being infected with one didn’t stop people from contracting the other, it was all the more important that Kiwis ensured they were boosted.
Now is not the time to give up our best protections.
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Please keep on topic, discussion about the Convoy protests can happen in these posts, (some overlap in this post is ok)