20,989 new community cases of Covid-19, 856 people hospitalized

There are 20,989 new cases of Covid-19 in the community in New Zealand on Friday, the Department of Health announced.

There are 856 people in hospital with the virus, including 20 in intensive care or high dependency units.

Friday’s figure is an increase from Thursday’s 773 hospitalizations. It is also an increase from the number of 16 in intensive care on Thursday.

Seven Covid-related deaths have also been recorded.

Five of the deaths were in Auckland, one in Waikato and one in the south, said Dr Andrew Old, clinical director of the Northern Region Health Coordination Center (NRHCC).

“This is the highest number of daily deaths we have had during this outbreak. It underscores that while Omicron is a mild illness for many people, for some it is not,” said he declared.

“Every death is a tragedy and our thoughts and condolences go out to the families and loved ones of those who died.”

The ministry said one person was in their 50s, four in their 70s, one in their 80s and one in their 90s. Four of them were male and three were female.

The total number of publicly reported Covid-related deaths is now 98.

Friday’s 20,989 positive cases, detected by rapid antigen tests (RATs) and PCR tests, are located in Northland (765), Auckland (7,240), Waikato (1,941), Bay of Plenty (1,352), Lakes (510 ), Hawke’s Bay (855), MidCentral (682), Whanganui (188), Taranaki (519), Tairāwhiti (330), Wairarapa (174), Capital and Coast (1746), Hutt Valley (1044), Nelson Marlborough (443 ), Canterbury (2160), South Canterbury (136), Southern (878) and West Coast (22).

The location of four cases is unknown.

The ministry said 20,320 of Friday’s cases were detected by RAT and 669 by PCR tests. A total of 4,614 PCR tests have been performed in the past 24 hours.

The number of active community cases is 209,754. They have been identified in the past 10 days but have not yet been classified as recovered.

Omicron outbreak in Auckland

Old said he remained “cautiously optimistic” that the virus is about to peak in Auckland.

He explained that the three-day rolling average of cases is around 8,500 per day, which is down from a peak of around 14,000.

Old said while health officials know not all cases are being detected, there has been good testing coverage in Auckland. 15% of those enrolled in general medicine have been tested in the last fortnight.

Daily test registrations also remain high at around 30,000 per day.

In Auckland, the average age of those hospitalized with the virus remains “relatively young” at around 40.

However, due to increased hospitalizations over the past week, health officials were seeing more elderly and vulnerable people.

Old said around half a per cent of Auckland’s cases were in hospital, with 1.5 per cent treated in hospital over the outbreak so far.

He said health staff outside of clinical teams had stepped up to help address staffing shortages.

At Waitematā District Health Board, the legal team were assisting security guards and the finance manager had been seen delivering meals to patients. Anesthesiologists drew blood and the management team worked in the emergency room making beds and answering calls.

Similar scenes were happening in DHBs in Manukau and Auckland counties.

Old said that since March 1, more than two million RATs had been distributed in Auckland.

There are also 23 new border cases on Friday.

As of Thursday, 21,015 community cases were recorded in New Zealand.

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