Not enough testing being done in Omicron outbreak - expert

Source: 1News

A Pacific health expert says current testing numbers are not a true reflection of the Omicron situation in the community in New Zealand.

Although the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation had predicted 50,000 cases by Waitangi weekend, case numbers were actually a record 243, then 208 and 188 over the long weekend.

University of Auckland Associate Professor of Public Health, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, told Breakfast one of the reasons for far lower case numbers could be that not enough people with Covid-19-like symptoms are coming forward to be tested.

“Somehow I don’t think the lower rates is a true reflection of the situation in the community. That’s why I would encourage people to continue testing.”

READ MORE: Kiwi expert explains why modelling for peak Omicron cases missed mark

Lower testing numbers on the weekend also meant infections could not be being picked up, Tukuitonga said.

He explained current testing numbers were half of what was seen during the start of the Delta outbreak in August last year.

Testing numbers leading into Waitangi weekend this year were more than 20,000 each day, but over Waitangi weekend dropped to below 16,000.

He said longer isolation periods could be a factor in people’s decision not to get a test if they were sick, particularly if they were from a big family or lived in a household with many others.

READ MORE: Advice from doctor who treated world’s first Omicron patient

“It is challenging and understandable, but it is important people do get tested.”

Complacency was also at play, Tukuitonga said. Into the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said people had had enough.

Talk Omicron is a mild form of the virus was not helping, Tukuitonga said.

The World Health Organization has said Omicron should not be characterised as mild, although it is a mild infection in some.

“We need to keep testing, both for yourself, your whānau, but also for us as a nation because if we don’t test, it’s like flying blind, we don’t know where we’re going.”