By Māori health researcher Dr Rawiri Taonui, in partnership with Te Ao Māori News.
With a record 102 new cases announced on Thursday, the City of Sails has passed the threshold of a runaway Delta event.
Key risk indicators are off the scale. This is the second record in three days. The average number of daily cases is six times higher than the average during Week One of Delta Alert Level 3, cases with exposure in the community are four times higher.
Daily unlinked cases are 12 times higher, fortnightly unlinked cases 20 times higher and hospitalisations four times higher. The Ministry of Health is no longer tracking unlinked clusters because they no longer know where or how many there are.
The 891 positive cases in isolation exceeds quarantine capacity, so many are in less secure isolation units. This year’s data shows 11 breaches from Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) occurred when there were more than 30 active cases in MIQ. Breaches happen because each active case has multiple points of contact, more cases equal more points of contact and that leads to more breaches.
There have been six breaches during the current outbreak of which four were escapes, including three in one evening. With managed active cases set to pass 1,000, there will be further breaches, and eventually more chains of transmission complicating an already out-of-control Delta.
The upward curve of Delta cases has steepened. Delta will go exponential. We will see more record days. Cases will exceed 150 then 200 per day over the next week.
To the week ending October 12, the weekly total of Delta cases increased 44.9%. To the week ending 19 October, they jumped 53.4%. The current week increase is 37% and rising.
If the Delta increase continues at 37% over the next two weeks (more likely it will be higher), there will be 4,000 cases by 2 November. And if the government does not take decisive action, Delta could reach 10,000 to 15,000 cases by the end of November.
Auckland Māori are vulnerable. Māori are 16.7% of the population. We were 5.7% of all cases on 1 September. On Thursday, Māori were 45.1% of the new 102 case record, 44.9% of all Delta Level 3 cases, 29.8% of all cases in the outbreak, 44.2% of all active cases, 23.5% of all those hospitalised and 50% of deaths.
The proportion of Māori cases has steadily increased. Māori had the highest cases on Thursday for the 18th day in a row. Four of the highest number of new Māori cases have come in the last eight days.
According to the unreliable Ministry HSU vaccination index, which undercounts Māori by 7%, just 50% of Auckland Māori are fully vaccinated. With Delta exponential, there will be 1,300 to 1,500 Māori cases by 2 November and unfortunately deaths.
If unchecked the Delta runaway will breach the Auckland and Waikato borders into Northland, the Lakes District, Bay of Plenty, Whanganui and Taranaki, the five District Health Boards with the lowest Māori vaccination rates. The result will be carnage on a scale not seen since 1918.
The Government Narrative
Health director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the record number of cases showed the “vulnerability of the unvaccinated and the importance of getting vaccinated.”
While vaccination is important, the vaccination narrative is also a smokescreen for the government’s premature decisions on September 20 to drop from Level 4 to level 3 and on 1 October to relax Level 3 restrictions. While we will need to live with Covid-19 attempting to do so when vaccination rates were as low as they were was a huge mistake that only fed the rapacious Delta Outbreak.
Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States initiated the restriction reduction live with Covid-19 strategy weeks ago. Their vaccination rates are about the same as ours now. Last week the World Health Organisation reported that the United States (583,000) and United Kingdom (283,000) had the highest weekly Delta cases in the world and Europe the highest cases (1.4 million) and deaths (18,000) of all regions.
The paradox is that the rich, higher vaccinated, live with Covid West, has increasing cases, while the lower vaccinated, poor, and developing world, who are maintaining ongoing guarded protocols, have declining cases, Africa down 18%, Latin and South America down 14% and Southeast Asia down 13%.
What will stop Delta? Alert Level 4. Had we stayed at Alert level 4 in Auckland for a further three to four weeks we would have already beaten Delta. Contrary to the government narrative that no one has beaten Delta, other less-privileged countries are pushing Delta numbers down.
Will the government invoke Level 4? They will hesitate because doing so will be to admit the vaccination – live with Covid strategy is flawed. Like deer in the headlights, the government succumbed to political pressure from the National Party and Act, the rantings of former prime minister John Key and idiot Brian Tāmaki. They also over-read a small decline in the September Colman-Brunton Poll, over-estimated the threat of a freedom anti-vax rebellion, and underestimated the resolve of the majority of New Zealanders to do the right thing.
Delta is not about politics. Delta is about making decisions that save lives. What will it take for the government to do the right thing? Hundreds of cases and multiple deaths, a considerable number of which will be Māori.
Noho haumaru, stay safe.
Dr Rawiri Taonui