Epidemiologist Michael Baker says this year’s flu season may be “particularly tough”.
The University of Otago professor told Seven Sharp it was because the flu hadn’t been circulating widely in New Zealand for the past couple of years, thanks to the country’s public health measures brought in because of Covid-19.
“When the borders open, we will be exposed to the circulating flu virus from overseas,” he said.
“So, it could be a particularly tough season.
“But, one thing that’s quite remarkable in New Zealand is that, the past two winters, because we’ve been managing Covid-19 so effectively, we’ve gotten rid of excess winter mortality,” Baker added.
“So, we saved about 2500 lives in each of the past two winters.”
New Zealand well-placed to tackle Omicron outbreak
New Zealand is inching closer to surpassing the 1000 daily Covid-19 case mark, with the Ministry of Health confirming 981 on Monday.
Baker warned the actual number of infections could be at least five-fold the case numbers.
“It’s for two reasons. One is we’re a highly-vaccinated population now, many people who will get the virus actually will have very few or, sometimes, no symptoms at all,” he said.
“The other thing going on is we’re always looking back, with the daily case numbers, at what happened about a week ago in terms of new infections.
“So, there’s a lot of infections already in the population that we can’t see yet. They’re going to come through in the next week or two.”
While Baker said ever-increasing Covid-19 case numbers in the Omicron outbreak could be alarming, increasing numbers of people were getting vaccinated and boosted against the virus.
“We’re well placed to do well during this period. It’s going to be difficult, but we’ll make it.”