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A very covid Christmas…?

A total of 45 new cases of covid-19 were reported in Wairarapa in the past week [to December 18], Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand data shows, bringing the region’s running tally of cases to 24,801 since the pandemic began in 2020.

The seven-day rolling average on December 17 was six cases.

While these numbers are relatively low compared to early 2022, when daily reported cases were in their hundreds, wastewater surveillance in the region indicates the actual number of active cases is far higher.

The data collected by ESR Science for Communities shows an average of 5.99 million covid genome copies detected per person per day in wastewater in the Wellington region overall and 1.48 million in Masterton.

Only wastewater in Masterton’s is tested for the presence of the covid genome, with the testing of Greytown, Martinborough, and Carterton’s wastewater discontinued in April this year.

According to Professor Nikki Turner, director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre, “There is an enormous amount of covid-19 around at the moment.

“People aren’t reporting their positive results as much anymore, so we need to look at hospitalisation and wastewater rates to get a clearer picture of how much covid disease there is currently.”

Nationally, covid rates are “now the highest they have been since January this year”, she said.

A Masterton pharmacist told the Times-Age they are “giving out a lot of RATs [rapid antigen tests]” currently.

“Covid-19 is still in our communities and is a significant risk,” said Te Whatu Ora Wairarapa in a statement, and recommended that “people should protect themselves, their whānau, and their community by getting immunised”.

The mandatory requirement for seven-day isolation for those testing positive for covid-19 was removed in August this year by the then Labour government and has been replaced with a recommendation to isolate for five days. Similarly, reporting of RAT test results [positive and negative] is not mandatory but is still encouraged on the covid-19 website.

In a recent press release, Pharmac announced that because of an increase in cases of covid-19, supplies of the antiviral medicine Paxlovid are reduced.

Paxlovid is used to treat covid-19 infection and can help patients out of hospital. However, pharmacies in Masterton approached for comment on this issue did not report any problems with meeting demand for the medicine.

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