New app shows 10,000 Māori could die if COVID-19 left unchecked

By Jessica Tyson

A new app is set to be released today which will be able to show what COVID-19 could look like for Māori if the pandemic is left to spread unchecked.

Auckland University lecturer Andrew Sporle helped create the app and says the worst-case scenario is that up to 10,000 Māori deaths could happen if COVID-19 was left unchecked.

"We've come up with that figure by using some relatively simple modelling based on what we currently know about the epidemic. So its a matter of taking into account what we know about the infection rate epidemic, what we know about the death rate for those people who get the infection and what we know about the structure of the Māori population in each region."

Sporle, of Ngāti Apa, Rangitāne and Te Rarawa, says historical information has also come into account.

"I was brought up by my nan who told me some horror stories about the 1918 flu epidemic and the Māori death rate for that was about seven times of the non-Māori rate and it de-populated rohe all over the place. But also the most recent flu epidemic was in 2009 and had a fatality rate for Māori that was 2.6 times higher than non-Māori, so we can build that into our model, he says.

"If we repeat history and have that same equity we're in for at least 10,000 deaths."

The app can be used on any device and is designed to show the projected number of Māori cases in each District Health Board (DHB) region.

"The first thing it's intended to do is put information in the hands of locals about how bad this epidemic could be in the regions and that’s because, not only health services are delivered in regions, but our response as whānau, as hapū and iwi is also regionally based so we need accessible regional information, says Sporle.

"So that enables people to have a look at how bad this could be, who’s likely to be affected by this based on the numbers of Māori in each DHB."

The second stage of the app will be reporting on the progression on the epidemic at a DHB level.