Another 13 people with Covid-19 have died, bringing New Zealand’s pandemic total up to 456.
Of the new deaths, three people were from Northland, one from Auckland, two from Waikato, one from Bay of Plenty, one from Whanganui, two from West Coast, and three from Southern. Three were in their 30s, two in their 50s, two in their 60s, four in their 70s, one in their 80s, and one over 90. Seven were women and six were men.
Speaking at the Ministry of Health, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield there had been a “small decline” in hospitalisations since yesterday, with 639 being treated. There are currently 29 people in intensive care.
Bloomfield said nationwide case numbers continue to decline. There are 11,634 being announced today, with the seven-day rolling average down to 11,791 from last Thursday’s 14,515.
It’s only been in the last couple of weeks that cases have started to decline across the country, said Bloomfield, and that will go into cabinet’s decision about the traffic light settings next week.
Hospital admissions in the northern region are declining, but quite slowly. Around 30-40% of those in hospital are estimated to be there for reasons other than Covid.
Outgoing public health director Caroline McElnay questioned over timing of her resignation
Bloomfield is joined at today’s briefing by public health director Caroline McElnay. It was yesterday revealed she has resigned from her post and today will be her final day in the role. Reflecting back on her time in the role, McElnay said today was the 299th Covid press conference. “It’s been an honour and a privilege to serve as director of public health throughout this time,” she said.
“I’m travelling overseas and it will be some months before I come back to New Zealand. It’s been an honour and a privilege to have served as director of public health during this time.
Perhaps anticipating questions regarding the departure of McElnay’s departure, Bloomfield said it had been “several months” since the public health director revealed her intention to leave the ministry. He said she had “very good reasons” for wanting to depart. Dr Jim Miller has joined to act in the director of public health role while Dr McElnay’s replacement is appointed.”
Bloomfield paid tribute to McElnay, saying she had been “a real rock” for him and it had been “a real pleasure” fronting the 1pm briefings together. “I’m pleased you’re having a break.”
McElnay said after five years in the role it was time to leave, citing her regular commute between home in Napier and the ministry in Wellington. She said she planned to spend more time with her family in New Zealand and visit extended family in Ireland and Europe.
Despite her decision to leave, McElnay said she did not feel burnt out. She has not thought about what her next job would be, but did not rule out taking up a job with the new Health NZ organisation. Preferably, however, her next role will involve next travel.
Reflecting on New Zealand’s Covid response, McElnay said our low death toll is an indication of how successful it has been. She acknowledged that every death is a tragedy and said in the early days of the pandemic she felt like every time she addressed the country it was to announce a death. “I knoew that social media for a while trolled me as ‘doctor death’,” she said. “I would challenge anyone who said our death rate was high.”