Despite a national surge in reported Covid cases during the holiday period, those in Wairarapa have been significantly lower than the same time last year – and were the lowest of any district in the country for the past week.
Even so, experts are urging Te Whatu Ora to continue offering free rapid antigen test [RAT] kits, an initiative that is likely to end at the end of February.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, the reported daily case numbers in Wairarapa last year for the week ending on January 15 were 43, 38, 30, 27, 25, 15 and 23.
The data for last week [ending on January 21] showed there were reported daily case numbers of 11, 3, 6, 7, 3, 3 and 3.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 24,990 people in Wairarapa have recovered from the virus, and 61 people have died from a Covid-related cause.
As of Monday this week, there were currently 36 active cases of Covid in Wairarapa, according to Te Whatu Ora’s online database, while the region had the lowest number of cases reported for any district in New Zealand during the past week [excluding 14 cases in the “unknown” location category].
Nationwide, 7019 new cases were reported in the past week and in total, 3748 deaths have been attributed to Covid.
Te Whatu Ora has said that free RAT collection sites will remain open until February 29, and that options for future free access to the testing kits are being considered.
About 182 million RAT tests have been purchased so far at the cost of $1.1 billion, and as of December last year about 20 million of those tests had expired.
Wairarapa epidemiologist Roger Morris told the Times-Age that in terms of reported cases, Wairarapa is doing well.
“Of course, reporting has dropped off substantially because there’s no real stimulus now to report,” Morris said.
“It’s largely being measured now through wastewater monitoring, which is quite a reliable method of monitoring the scale of cases in different parts of the country.”
Morris noted that the epidemic was playing out “much as predicted”, and said he expects there will be fluctuations in case numbers as new variants arrive from overseas.
“The severity of the epidemic is gradually declining, but the virus continues to spread, and will continue to do so,” he said.
“Eventually, maybe in another 20 years, we’ll consider it to be much like the common cold.”
When it comes to the end of free RAT tests, Morris said he finds it disappointing that they won’t be funded for a little longer.
“Their value is in confirming if you have Covid, because the majority of people will take precautions if they have a positive test,” he said.
“I’ve had Covid twice now, and each time I haven’t been sure until I did the RAT test because my symptoms have been mild.”
Continuing free RAT tests for “at least the rest of the year” would ensure people could prepare accordingly, he said, noting that “Long Covid is turning out to be quite a severe disease with a number of different manifestations”, which means Covid is “still a substantially more serious virus than the common cold”.
“There is also a small possibility we’ll have a more severe strain arrive – the progress isn’t linear and there might be bumps along the way.”