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New Zealand

Mortality burden of CoViD-19 likely to fall heavily on older Maori and Pacific people

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Pasifika populations are particularly at risk for CoViD-19, where the risk of hospitalisation is seven times higher than for NZ European and Other ethnic groups, warns a New Zealand report on worse case scenario modelling.

If CoVid-19 follows the same patterns as previous pandemics: “The mortality burden is likely to fall particularly heavily on older (aged 60+) Maori and Pacific peoples,” says the draft report commissioned by the New Zealand Ministry of Health to understand the potential impact of CoViD-19 in New Zealand.

“We assume ethnic inequalities in mortality will be similar to those in the 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic, ie, that the risk of hospitalisation was 5 times higher for Māori and 7 times higher for Pacific peoples, while the risk of death was 2.6 times higher for Māori...and 4.6 times higher for Pacific peoples...than for NZ European/Other.”

Elderly are particularly at risk, and Māori and Pacific elderly even more so, and from younger ages.

“Nevertheless, these poor outcomes are modifiable ie, if the entry of CoVid-19 to NZ is delayed, if there are successful interventions that substantially reduce transmission in Māori and Pacific communities (eg, intensive hand and respiratory hygiene messages and social distancing interventions such as reducing public gatherings and closing schools) or even more radical measures are used such as protective sequestration of communities.”

The modelling estimates for the spread and health impact of CoViD-19 in New Zealand show the importance of the Level 4 lockdown and other government actions in slowing the spread of CoViD-19.

Highly uncertain scenarios

The future spread and health impact of this new disease are highly uncertain and the report only represents potential future scenarios rather than predictions using an NZ population of 4.96 million.

All scenarios assumed that 48% of infections would be asymptomatic (having no symptoms) and that 20% of symptomatic infections would require hospitalisation (not in the mild category).

If it is not controlled then a worse case outcome sees 3.23 million (65% of NZ population) would likely contract a CoViD-19 infection with total deaths between 12,600 and 33,600 people.

“There is a high degree of uncertainty around all aspects of CoViD-19 epidemiology,” stressed the report. “it may well be lower than our scenario value or it may be higher.”

International data suggests that deaths will also be typically in those with co-morbidities.

Those at risk include Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are known to be prevalent in Pasifika communities.

An estimate for “a worse case scenario”, show alarming potential impact with 23.1% (92,190) of Pacific people requiring hospitalisation and 2.1% (8,360) Pasifika deaths in New Zealand.

Ref. Draft: Modelled Estimates for the Spread and Health Impact of Covid-19in New Zealand: Revised Preliminary Report for the NZ Ministry of Health"