Analysis by Keith Rankin.
Respiratory Virus Hospitalisations in Counties-Manukau, as reported by Stuff
The chart above splits the patients in Middlemore Hospital into the different categories of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness. The vast majority are what in the past we have called ‘common colds’. There is no indication that any of these ‘colds’ are due to human coronaviruses other than the Covid-Omicron. Indeed, as well as ridding us of Covid-Delta and its ancestor variants of the original SARS-Cov2 virus, Covid-Omicron may well have sealed the fate of the human coronaviruses which previously caused about 15% of all ‘colds’.
We do not know what percentage of covid hospitalisations end up becoming deaths. (My guess is that about half of covid deaths occurred in people’s homes, including age-care facilities.)
It is likely that the deaths associated with the 93% of SARI hospitalisations which were not covid are a relatively low number compared to covid deaths, mainly because a large proportion of these other cases will be children. But it is appropriate to remind ourselves that, in normal times, about ten percent of all winter deaths are attributable to ‘common colds’, and that this figure will be higher this year, maybe 20% of all winter deaths.
Recent Changes to the Reporting of Covid19 Deaths
The recent changes have been very confusing to media trying to report these. But I will summarise the three main measures, using data from Tuesday 26 July until today.
- Deaths of people who became Covid19 cases within 28 days of their death: 154
- Deaths of people for whom Covid19 was the principal cause: 90
- Deaths of where Covid19 was the principal or a contributory cause: 130
The last of these has become the favoured measure of the Ministry of Health. It is important to note, however, that because of times required to verify that Covid was the underlying or a contributory cause of death, this last favoured measure is not as up-to-date as the first (previously favoured) measure.
To impute weekly deaths (and allowing for lower weekend reporting) we should scale-up these four-day totals by 50%: giving 231, 135, and 195.
Then, to convert them into weekly deaths per million in the population, we must divide by five. That gives, for each measure:
- 46 per million
- 27 per million
- 39 per million
These last three numbers should be seen in the context of this Worldometer screenshot (22 July 2022) which showed New Zealand last week as the country with the world’s highest Covid19 death rate.
Based on the above calculation, New Zealand’s current comparable rate of Covid19 mortality is 46 per million (up from the 34 per million shown in the screenshot). And even if we use the much more conservative measure above (27 per million), that’s still the same as the number given for Malta, and well above the high numbers for Taiwan and Australia.
And we know that significant numbers of people are also dying from the other SARI viruses. SARI deaths would appear to be being substantially downplayed by the Ministry of Health.
Keith Rankin (keith at rankin dot nz), trained as an economic historian, is a retired lecturer in Economics and Statistics. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.