The Ministry of Health will soon be releasing data about the make-up of Covid cases.
It should be able to tell you where the positive cases got Covid from – within the community or their bubble.
The data should also be broken down into demographics including age and ethnicity.
But most importantly, epidemiologist Michael Baker says, it will tell us whether or not we are getting control of the virus.
“I think it’s very useful information to split the cases you are seeing every day into categories that tell you how successful we are at controlling the outbreak, or if it’s getting away, getting out of control in some settings,” Baker says.
He points to Australian reporting, which divides the cases by sources, as being the single most important split - those from household cases of known contacts, and those from the community where the source is unknown.
“Those cases are far more ominous because they might suggest that for example the lockdown measures we have at the moment are not being very successful at controlling transmission.”
Baker believes this information should have been made public a long time ago.
Furthermore, New Zealand’s public health entity has been left wanting for how it has communicated the granular information about Covid cases that make it easier for people like him, journalists, and the general public, to understand where the virus is at within the community, Baker says.
“Throughout the pandemic I have been quite frustrated with the way data presented on the Ministry of Health website.
“It’s often not had the kind of form of presentation that actually enables you to know how we’re going in terms of the outbreak or the pandemic in more general. So I think there is room for improvement there.”
“This has been out of character, I think, with otherwise very good communication. And that is quite a poor presentation of data on the website and also the way the data is divided into meaningful categories.”
The health expert offers some advice going forward- including prioritising the locations of interest.
Casting the net wide in the first instance was a good idea, he says, but now it’s time to start narrowing down and for the ministry to start highlighting those events which are super-spreaders, or had someone highly infectious at them.
“We will start to really see it at this point and hone down on a limited number of places of interest.”
Also - get positive cases and their families into managed facilities - similar to what was happening in the 2020 August lockdown.
“There’s no question about how infectious the virus is. If you are living with someone who has or is incubating the virus, I think there will be a strong argument for taking those people and putting those people into an MIQ facility to reduce ongoing community transmission.”
Finally, some good news from Baker – the worst is almost over.
Those that got infected in the community have started to reach and pass the peak of the incubation period.
“We are really passing their peak risk now because we are looking really at somewhere between three, four, or five days with this virus. Quite a short incubation period.”