As we head into the peak of our summer the number of people infected by the Delta variant of COVID-19 has declined dramatically with only one active case in Middlemore Hospital at the start of this week.
We continue to be busy treating hundreds of patients every day with non COVID-19 related conditions such as trauma, heart attacks, strokes, premature babies, mental health issues and a wide range of acute and elective surgery. Our teams continue to offer vaccinations and booster shots in our community, and we are preparing to roll out the COVID-19 vaccination programme to children next week.
Vaccination remains a key defence in our efforts to minimize the harm caused by the virus. The commencement of vaccination for children 5 years and older is positive for our community to both protect children from becoming unwell and help reduce the spread of the virus by increasing the number of people protected through vaccination.
Very quickly Omicron has become the dominant COVID-19 variant across the world. It is proving to be highly infectious and we are again learning from our counterparts overseas to assist in our preparation. We are expecting cases of Omicron in our community soon, exactly when we don’t know, but we do know it will spread quickly.
In fully immunised people the positive news is that Omicron appears to be typically a mild upper respiratory infection which means for most people they will not become seriously unwell with lung infections and respiratory illnesses. For many people time off work or school is the most that will be required.
As is the experience overseas, we expect that hospitalisation rates will be lower for Omicron than in the Delta outbreak. Due to many more people being infected the number of people requiring hospitalisation will be high and stretch our hospital services. We are currently full-on planning and ensuring we are fully prepared to continue to provide our health services to our community when this latest outbreak arrives.
We also need everyone to please have a plan about what you will do when you or your whaanau get COVID-19. It is important we all think about who our support people will be and how we will get basic supplies and food delivered as staying home and isolating while unwell will be required. Have some pain relief ready in case you need it and please keep following the Ministry of Health advice and be diligent with handwashing, mask wearing and social distancing.
We do know Omicron will spread quickly and most people will be able to self-manage at home. Please be prepared for when Omicron COVID-19 variant finds you.
Manaaki to hauora. Keep safe and well
Dr Pete Watson, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Medical Officer
Counties Manukau Health