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Covid-19: Expert urges vigilance as testing numbers across Auckland, NZ trend down

A public health expert has advised people to remain vigilant about Covid-19 as the number of tests carried out in Auckland and across the country appears to be falling.

In the seven days to Wednesday, 138,711 swabs were processed across Aotearoa. This was down more than 42,500 swabs from the week prior. A month ago, across November 18-24, 208,872 swabs were taken across the country – 70,161 more than this week.

Testing rates in Tāmaki Makaurau also appear to be decreasing. There were 56,692 Covid swabs taken across Auckland in the past seven days, versus 78,330 the week prior.

Three weeks ago there were more than 91,000 Covid swabs taken in Auckland in a seven-day stretch. In the seven days to Wednesday there have been just 56,692.

SIMON O’CONNOR/Stuff

Three weeks ago there were more than 91,000 Covid swabs taken in Auckland in a seven-day stretch. In the seven days to Wednesday there have been just 56,692.

Epidemiologist, University of Otago Professor Michael Baker said there were several reasons people get tested for Covid-19, and there could be several reasons testing numbers were down.

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Case numbers have dropped “markedly” in recent weeks. Tuesday saw the lowest number of new daily cases since early October.

With fewer cases, there will likely be fewer new contacts, or a relatively stable number of people requiring testing.

Coming into summer you also see fewer winter respiratory illnesses with symptoms that may drive people to get tested.

Professor Michael Baker said there could be a number of factors playing into decreased testing numbers.

SUPPLIED

Professor Michael Baker said there could be a number of factors playing into decreased testing numbers.

Baker said another factor could be waning concern people had about Covid-19, depending on where they lived and what was happening in the region.

When cases cropped up in a new area there was typically a surge in testing – the same could be true in reverse, he said. Fewer people may be getting tested if there are fewer cases.

Baker said you wanted the right people to be tested: those who are symptomatic, or are contacts of a case.

He said it was “not necessarily the more [tests] the better”, but about their yield.

“What we don’t want is if people are getting busy with summer and putting off getting things checked out. That’s obviously not desirable.”

Baker said the cases to be most worried about were those which were not epidemiologically linked to others, which would be an indication of whether we needed more testing.

University of Otago (Wellington) Associate Dean (Pacific) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said, although reported case numbers appeared to be declining, Covid-19 was still spreading around the country – most recently Hutt Valley on Wednesday.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said it was important to continue to be vigilant about Covid-19 coming into summer, particularly with Omicron on our doorstep – albeit at the border.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said it was important to continue to be vigilant about Covid-19 coming into summer, particularly with Omicron on our doorstep – albeit at the border.

“It is important to remember we’re still dealing with a serious Delta outbreak,” she said.

“We need to ensure that Covid-19 testing continues. It is really important that those who do need to be tested are being tested.”

While Omicron was confined to the border for the time being, the “last thing we want is it escaping into our communities”. Ensuring we were on top of testing is critical, she said.

Even though New Zealand is highly vaccinated overall, there are still areas with lower levels of vaccination than others, and the virus may continue to seed in other regions as people travel over summer.

“We still need to be vigilant.”

“We all want to keep safe for summer, but we all have a role to play. There’s still work for us to do.”

Sika-Paotonu stressed that people also still needed to be vaccinated, and get boosters if eligible.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins has been approached for comment.



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