Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The ‘end’ of Covid

At one minute past midnight last night, the New Zealand Government ended all remaining Covid restrictions. This means that Kiwis testing positive for Covid will no longer be required to isolate for seven days, and requirement that all visitors to health care facilities wear face masks also ended. In essence, life in New Zealand for most people is now completely back to “normal”, like what it was in the pre-Covid times.

In announcing the change, the Minister of Health, Dr Ayesha Verrall, said, “While our case numbers will continue to fluctuate, we have not seen the dramatic peaks that characterised COVID-19 rates last year.” The Government also pointed out that the levels of the virus detected in wastewater, and also the number of hospitalisations related to Covid, have been trending downwards since the beginning of June, and also that over the past month the number of cases of Covid reported have hit their lowest levels since February 2022. All of which is very good news.

The Government conducted a massive advertising campaign to encourage New Zealanders to get this year’s influenza vaccination, and that seems to have helped take some of the strain off the healthcare system. I received my influenza and Covid booster shots back on May 30.

I think today's change is a sensible move, not the least because—if we’re truly honest—plenty of people (probably most) were ignoring the last remaining rules, anyway. On the evening news last night, a mask-wearing person talked about how even though there were signs telling people to wear a mask when entering her healthcare facility, few did. Last June, I went for my routine blood tests and wore a mask. While I was there, a woman came in—not wearing a mask. As I was leaving, a different woman who appeared to be my age or somewhat older, entered, also not wearing a mask. I didn’t take mine off until I was outside and walking toward my car.

A few days after my blood tests, I had an appointment at my doctor’s office. It was simply to check my blood pressure and weight, which hadn’t been measured (officially, that is…) in several years. I wore a mask, of course, and from what I could see, the patients there did, too—more or less. One older man was wearing his more like a chin strap, and the masks of others didn’t seem completely seated properly. In other words, compliance with the rule looked to me to be sort of half-hearted—at a doctors practice, no less, a place with sick people in it.

This being an election year, TV journalists asked if the relaxed requirements were some sort of election ploy. I mean, of course the people who hate Labour to the very core of their being because of the Government’s sound, fact-based response to Covid would suddenly completely change their minds about Labour simply because the Government removed the last two restrictions. Sometimes the idiocy of journalists is absolutely breathtaking.

Other, more rationally-inclined journalists asked health officials if it was sensible to relax the requirements while it's still winter, the season with the most respiratory illness. That absolutely was a fair question, and there were differing opinions in the answers, as one would expect. However, with the Covid-related demands on the public health system far lower than has been the case in a very long time, and with Spring beginning just over two weeks from now, it seems to me that this is as good a time as any, and many healthcare professionals agree with it. Will the change “help” Labour’s election campaign? Of course not—but neither will it hurt them. I’ve seen with my own eyes how many people are completely over the restrictions, anyway, and they have been for quite some time.

I’m someone who’s considered at higher risk of bad outcomes if I catch Covid (or influenza, for that matter), and even I can see the sense of ending the last restrictions. We’ve all moved on, and the Government is really just catching up. Clearly some TV journalists have some catching-up to do, too.


Roger Owen Green said...

There was a headline in the Albany (NY) Times Union: Two new COVID-19 variants, EG.5 and FL.1.5.1, are making the rounds this week as hospitalization rates continue to rise.

EG.5, nicknamed “Eris,” is now a dominant variant in the United States, making up about 17 percent of cases nationwide, while FL.1.5.1 is mostly surging in the Northeast, according to viral sequencing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday classified Eris as a “variant of interest” but so far, there is no indication that it poses more of a threat to public health than other variants. Eris has also spawned its own subvariant known as EG.5.1.
Previously, it was versions of the XBB variant that caused most COVID-19 infections.

Hospitalization rates tied to COVID-19 have risen sharply across New York state in the last two week, though intensive care unit cases and fatalities have stayed consistently low. In the Capital Region, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 jumped from 26 to 51 in the last week.

State health officials say there is no indication the new variants, which are derived from omicron, are causing the uptick in hospitalizations.

Hospitalization rates are believed to be driven by a combination of factors, including the usual travel and socializing people do during summer months and waning immunity, according to Dr. Kirsten St. George, director of virology and chief of the Laboratory of Viral Diseases at the Wadsworth Center in Albany.

*** Interestingly, my wife, who is close to your age, went to her MD yesterday and asked when she should get another booster. She was told she wasn't in the target demographic. When her husband, 70, sees his primary doc in late Sept, he'll likely get different info. In fact, I've read that I ought not get another booster UNTIL late Sept/early Oct because the vaccine will be more targeted by then AND because the flu/COVID season will be coming when more people will be inside. BTW, my last booster was 12/5/22, about three months after my (mild) case of COVID.

Arthur Schenck said...

I saw something about Eris this morning, but so far it doesn't seem to be any worse than the current variants. Still, I'll keep getting vaccines as they become available and advisable, but my most recent shot was nearly a year (I think) after the previous booster, so who knows if when a new booster will be made available—it may depend on who wins the NZ election in October.