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Wairarapa has the deadliest covid stats

Wairarapa’s covid spread has been the deadliest, with the highest mortality per capita in New Zealand.

The region had 36 deaths since the start of the pandemic. From a population of 49,900, that equates to 72 deaths per 100,000 people.

Similarly sized region Tairawhiti, which includes Gisborne, has a death rate almost half of Wairarapa’s with just 38 deaths per 100,000.

Wairarapa’s death rate per 100,000 people was 25 per cent higher than Taranaki, which had 54 deaths per 100,000 people.

Auckland University epidemiology professor Rod Jackson said an ageing population was a major contributing factor. In Wairarapa, 22 per cent of the population is aged over 65.

“If you get an infection in an older community, you’re going to get a lot of deaths.

“It’s the biggest contributor by far. The age you are when you get covid exponentially dictates the potential outcome. If Wairarapa has a tight-knit community of older people who attend the same social groups, it’s likely there will be a huge spread.”

He said spread in rest homes was the worst-case scenario.

“Those can be a real problem. Omicron is so incredibly infectious that once it gets in it’s almost impossible to contain.”

He said the way covid spreads was “lumpy”.

“There’s a lot of chance when it comes to how covid spreads and how it will affect the people who get it.

“If there is spread at an event or in a particular area, and people get it, that’s when you see the large numbers of cases. If covid gets into an older population, then deaths are far more likely to occur.

The second biggest factor in mortality rates was whether people were vaccinated.

“Evidence is clear we need to prime our immune system to protect from covid. Either get the vaccine or get covid … and you don’t want covid. covid is like a really dodgy vaccine.”

Maori and Pacific populations, and poverty were other contributing factors.

“People living in overcrowded, multi-generational homes with poor ventilation, covid is spread very easily.”

However, Jackson said that because covid deaths were reported with a 5 per cent margin of error, the statistics should be taken with a grain of salt.

“If the number of deaths per 100,000 is 70, the correct number could be anywhere between 50 and 100.

“When you’re dealing with such small numbers, it’s hard to determine whether something is statistically significant.”

A health ministry spokesperson said the mortality rates weren’t significant.

“At this stage, there is no statistically significant variation in covid-19 mortality rates at a district level, including in the Wairarapa district.

“This is partly because the number of deaths attributed to covid-19 to date is not of a magnitude where it is possible to make meaningful comparisons in the mortality rate at a district level, particularly in smaller districts.”

The ministry did not provide the ages of the covid-19 deaths in Wairarapa.

Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora-Wairarapa did not comment at the time of print.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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