There are 373 people in hospital with Covid-19, with nine now in intensive care. Most cases are in Middlemore Hospital, 134, followed by Auckland Hospital, 115.
Speaking from the Ministry of Health, Ashley Bloomfield said the average stay for people in hospital with Covid-19 from the past few weeks is 2.2 days – around half of what it was during the delta outbreak. The vast majority of people are not requiring any respiratory support
Meanwhile, there are nearly 20,000 new community cases of Covid-19 today with around 100,000 active cases nationwide. The Ministry of Health confirmed 19,566 new cases – the highest recorded from across both years of the pandemic.
Of those, only “a couple of thousands” were detected from PCR tests, said Bloomfield.
Just 22 new overseas cases were confirmed ahead of the full border reopening later this week.
While the rise in numbers could sound concerning, Bloomfield reminded people that Covid-19 is now a different foe to what it was two years ago.
As the outbreak worsens, Bloomfield said it has become less feasible to pool samples for testing. “Two Thursdays ago, before the rollout of rapid antigen tests, 17 or the DHBs across the country recorded positivity rates of more than 5%. Less than a month ago, none of our labs had exceeded that 5% threshold,” he said.
It’s now clear we overestimated the number of tests the lab network could actually process once omicron began to take off, added the director general. “This led to a delay in the processing of around 32,000 samples,” he said.
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Bloomfield has apologised to anyone who had their test result delayed, and has implored anyone who still has symptoms to go and seek a rapid antigen test.
Over 9,000 tests were sent to Queensland for processing at the weekend, explained Bloomfield. “We’re addressing the situation.”
GPs and urgent care clinics will now have unsupervised RATs to hand out as well as offering supervised RATs. Bloomfield said people will now be given three RATs per household when they go to a testing centre, GP or urgent care clinic.
Bloomfield has asked for an external review of what went wrong with lab testing of PCR results. It was hoped unpooled capacity could reach 39,000 a day by the end of March. At the moment it’s about 30,000, he said. “It was a combination of staffing vacancies and staff being off, some of the new machines were delayed, and there were delays around reagents [a substance used for lab testing],” he said.
Around 54% of people who were notified by text that they were a case in the last week have followed up with the self-investigation tool online.
About 15%-20% of staff at Middlemore Hospital are currently off work owing to testing positive for Covid-19, being a household contact, or caring for a case, said Bloomfield.
Yesterday, there were 23,465 booster doses administered. Bloomfield said his team was looking at the period of isolation for cases and household contacts to see if it could be reduced from 10 days, and will be providing advice to ministers in the next day or two.
Location of today’s cases
Northland (329), Auckland (12,530), Waikato (1,812), Bay of Plenty (1,185), Lakes (376), Hawke’s Bay (168), MidCentral (260), Whanganui (45), Taranaki (165), Tairāwhiti (88), Wairarapa (42), Capital and Coast (691), Hutt Valley (355), Nelson Marlborough (196), Canterbury (740), South Canterbury (37), Southern (529), West Coast (17); Unknown (1)