NZ Ministry of Health abandons Covid infection survey

Oku taupotu ‘i lalo ha fakamatala fakaTonga

A long-awaited survey of Covid-19 infections has been abandoned by the Ministry of Health.

In a statement, a spokesperson said it was no longer needed.

“Aotearoa New Zealand has passed the emergency stage of its Covid-19 response, with the virus endemic in our communities. The results of any Covid-19-focused prevalence survey would be unlikely to meaningfully alter any current public health response as there are only two pandemic-related mandates still in place.”

The remaining mandates were for masks to be worn in healthcare facilities and for positive cases to isolate for seven days.

“The ministry accepts it took longer than expected to reach this conclusion, given the challenges of a multi-stakeholder, complex project developed during the health reforms,” the statement said.

The two surveys were announced by former director-general of public health Ashley Bloomfield. In July 2022, he said an infection survey would test 100 people a week over a six-month period. The second survey, a seroprevalence survey, was a blood test to see if people had previously had Covid-19.

“Both are well developed and nearly ready to start rolling out in the next few weeks,” he said at the time.

In November, deputy director of health Andrew Old told RNZ it had taken longer than expected and would be delayed until July this year, citing Covid-19, winter illness and health reforms as the the reason.

Today’s announcement the surveys had been abandoned was disappointing news to Covid-19 modeller Dion O’Neale.

“It’s good to have it confirmed as cancelled, rather than perpetually being told it’s a month away, or six months away.”

He said the infection survey would have provided information which could help with modelling the impact of changing the current isolation rules.

If the survey showed people only a small portion of people with Covid-19 were isolating, then reducing the isolation period, or removing it completely wouldn’t have a large impact. If most people are still following isolation rules, then removing them “could have a huge impact”, he said.

“Trying to model what the consequences are of changing case isolation, and the absence of knowing that gets trickier.”

He was also concerned at how prepared New Zealand was for another serious disease outbreak, where a prevalence survey could provide valuable information.

“It has taken us three years to not get one going. We don’t want to be in a situation where we have an emergency again, where we need to have a prevalence survey up and running within weeks – and we’re not prepared for one.”

The seroprevalence survey would be useful to see who has had Covid-19 across the country and where the burden of long Covid may lie, he said.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said prevalence surveys were expected to be a key tool in future public health surveillance, and said will benefit from the work which has been done on the cancelled project.

FAKAMATALA FAKATONGA

Kuo li’aki ‘e he Potungaue Mo’ui ha ola ‘o ha savea ki he pipihi ‘o e Koviti 19 ne fai ha tatali ki ai.

I ha fakamatala ne pehe ai ‘e he matāpule na’e ‘ikai toe fiema’u ia.

Kuo paasi ‘a Aotearoa Nu’u Sila ia mei he tu’unga fiemau fakavavevave ne ‘i ai ‘ene tali ki he Koviti-19, i he to ‘a e vailasi ‘i he ngaahi komiunitii. ‘Oku ‘ikai ha toe fu’u ‘uinga lelei ia ke liliu ‘a e tu’unga ‘a hono tokangaekina’o e vailasi ‘e ha savea pehe he ko e meniteiti pe ‘e ua oku kei tu’u.

Kuo pehe ‘e he Potungaue na’e fuoloa ange ‘i he faka’amu pea toki iku o tali ‘a e aofangatuku, koeuhi ko e pole ‘o e kau seahoulutaa’ mo kau fa’u poloseki lolotonga ‘a e fakafo’ou.

Ko e ongo savea ko eni ne fanongonongo ia ‘e he talekita seniale ki mu’a ‘o e public health ko Ashley Bloomfield. Na’a ne pehe i Siulai 2022 ‘e fai ‘a e savea ‘o e mahaki pipihi pea e tesi ai ha kakai ‘e toko 100 he uike ‘i ha piliote ko e mahina ‘e ono. Ko e savea hono  ua ko ha savea seroprevalence survey, aia ko ha sivi toto ke sio kapau na’e ma’u ‘e he kakai ‘a e Koviti-19 ki mu’a.  

Ne ne pehe ne ‘osi kamata pea ne ‘osi mateuteu ke kamata leva ‘i he ngaahi uike hono hoko’.

‘I Novema na’e fakaha ai ‘e he Tokoni Talekita o e Mo’ui ko Andrew Old ki he RNZ ‘e toe ki’i loloa atu ia he me’a ne fai ki ai ‘a e ‘amanaki’ pea ‘e toloi kae ‘oualeva ke a’u ki  Siulai ‘o e ta’u ni’, ‘o ne ‘ai hake ‘a e Koviti-19 mo e pule he fa’ahi ta’u Momoko mo hono fakafo’ou ‘o e health ‘a e ngaahi ‘uhinga ki he toloi.

Ka i hono fanongonongo ko ia he ‘aho ni kuo ‘ikai toe fakahoko na’e fakamamahi ia ko e motela o e Koviti-19 ko Dion O’Neale.

Sai ang eke tala mai kuo kaniseli ‘i hono ‘ai ke pehe ‘e toloi ha mahina pe mahina ‘e ono.

Na’a ne pehe ko e ola ‘o e savea ko eni ne mei tokoni lahi ke ma’u ai ha ngaahi fakamatala  e ala tokoni ki hono fa’u o ha ngaahi liliu ki he ngaahi tu’utu’uni o e fakamavahe’i ‘oku lolotonga fakahoko’.

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