COVID Māori Update 7 May 2020 | Is moving to Level 2 too risky?
Dr Rawiri Taonui
Moving to Level 2
On 11 May, the government will decide whether we stay at Level 3 or move to Level 2. All indications are that they will move to Level 2 in a staged process. More retail will open in the middle of next week. Schools might start back the following week. International travel restrictions will remain. Bubbles will be more flexible. The limit on larger gatherings will be 100.
The key statistical indices for moving to Level 2, include:
1. Zero Days
- We need more zero days. Nationally, we have had just 2 zero days. Zero days give confidence we have suppressed COVID-19. Unless we see a run of 6 or 7, the likelihood of a further outbreak remains high.
2. Recent Cases
- The recency of new cases is important in deciding when to move to Level 2. Our 5 largest DHBs, Waikato, Auckland, Waitematā, Canterbury and Counties-Manukau, have continued to report 1 or more new cases over the last week to 8 days. This raises concern that given their size, they total 2.75 million or 55% of the total New Zealand population, they harbour further undetected cases. The likelihood exists that new cases will be found. The possibility of a new cluster also exists.
- The decision here will rest on the confidence of the Ministry of Health to control an outbreak. Given the low number of active cases, that just 2 people remain in hospital and our ability to maintain testing at a high level, the Ministry will have confidence in its capacity to manage contact tracing, isolation and other measures.
3. Active Cases
- Currently, we sit at 136 active cases. We need to be well below 50 active cases. This is an important signal of the degree to which we have eliminated COVID-19.
4. Thorough Testing
- The latest testing data is dated 30 April. There has been significantly good testing of our communities in the Northern Region and the Waikato. This effort has extended into the regions where, for example, in less than one week, Māori health providers have made a massive contribution to testing rates for our people in Te Tai Rāwhiti and Taranaki. Beyond that, the effort thins out in regions further from large urban areas. The latest data shows the average rate for testing per1000 of the population for Māori (24.0) and Pacific (29.0) is over the national average (22.5). Despite progress, testing gaps persist in the regions.
- Testing must be thorough and even across all ethnicities so that we have confidence there are no hidden reservoirs of COVID-19. The numbers will never be equal, nor should we expect them to be. However, it is reasonable to expect that ethnic testing across all DHBs to be within about 10% of each other.
- Gaps remain in the regions. Māori are below 90% of the national testing average in 7 DHBs, and Pacific in 9 DHBs.
- The priorities include: 5 DHBs under-testing all non-European communities: Rotorua â€“ Taupō Lakes, Whanganui, MidCentral, Nelson-Marlborough and Canterbury. MidCentral and Nelson-Marlborough are the lowest.
- There is an emerging priority to lift testing in the Asian community. Testing is on average 40% lower for the Asian community in all DHBS. It is more than 50% lower in 4 DHBs (Taranaki, MidCentral, Whanganui and Nelson Marlborough). If ‘we are all in this together’ then testing in our Asian community is a major priority.
- If under-testing persists, there is a risk that the Asian community is stigmatised and becomes the target for racism, harassment, and violence. Last week, we saw an Asian photographer for the New Zealand publication Messenger assaulted in Christchurch (below).
- There have been 45,000 more tests since 30 April. Some gaps may have been covered. We will not know until we see more data. Moving to Level 2 without closing these gaps is a risk.
The numbers tell us that a move to Level 2 will not be without risk. There is still time to narrow the margins and close gaps. A further week to 18 May at Level 3 would help progress testing in the Asian community. The likely decision is a staged progression to Level 2 starting by opening more businesses on Wednesday 13 May or Thursday 14 May, with schools and other large institutions not starting until the 18th. The government would countenance that it will face huge political and business opposition if it delayed further.
New Zealand Situation
New and Total Cases
There is 1 new case today. Total cases are 1489. There are no new deaths. Total deaths stay at 21. New cases are single-digit or ZERO for 19 consecutive days. The 10-day trend is: 3-2-3-3-6-2-0-0-2-1. We have made considerable progress but have not eliminated COVID-19.
Recovered and Active Cases
In another key index, 1332 or 89.5% of all cases have recovered. Recovered cases are nearly 10x higher than active cases. There is a new low of 136 active cases. This is the lowest number of active cases since 23 March. We are tracking toward less than 100 active cases in 4 days (11 May) when the government will decide whether we move to Level 2.
There were a record 7,323 tests yesterday. The total is 168,023 at a rate of 33,605 tests per million. The highest testing countries are all above 30,000 tests per million.
There are no new Māori cases today. 1 probable case has been defined as negative. The total is 126. The 10-day trend runs: 0-1-0-0-0-0-0-0-1-0. With immaculate ethnic inaccuracy, the Ministry of Health says Māori are 8% of all cases. Māori stay at 8.5%. The single decimal place is important for tracking the current trend.
In particularly good news, there are ZERO new Pacific cases again today. The total stays at 79. The 10-day trend runs: 0-1-1-0-1-2-0-0-0-0. With immaculate ethnic inaccuracy, the Ministry of Health says Pacific are 5.0% of all cases. Pacific cases are 5.3%.
Noho haumaru, stay safe and self-sovereign, Dr Rawiri Taonui.
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