Asia - Pacific, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 may affect 64% of New Zealanders: Report

New Zealand has found 14 clusters of deadly coronavirus while confirmed cases top 600

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 31.03.2020
COVID-19 may affect 64% of New Zealanders: Report


While most of New Zealand's population is at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, 14,000 to 80,000 could die due to the virus, two recent reports warn.

Research conducted by the University of Otago, later forwarded to New Zealand's Ministry of Health, estimated that up to 64% of the population could fall ill with up to 14,400 people dying, Radio New Zealand reported.

However, another report, this time from the University of Auckland's Te Punaha Matatini noted if left unchecked, the coronavirus would "infect 89% of the population and kill up to 80,000 people."

"If New Zealand fails with its current eradication strategy toward COVID-19, then health outcomes for New Zealand could be very severe," the second report said.

New Zealand reported more cases on Tuesday, bringing the island country's total cases to 647, with one death. Besides, it found 14 clusters of infected people including in the country's Air Force rugby team that had visited the U.S.

The University of Otago study found that if the current crisis was not managed well, the effect would not be "as severe as the 0.8% that died from the 1918 flu pandemic in New Zealand."

The estimates that 14,400 could die of the COVID-19 pandemic translates to 0.29% of New Zealand's current population, while 9,000 people who died in 1918 constituted 0.8% of the nearly 1.15 million people of that time. New Zealand currently has a population of nearly 5 million people.

Nick Wilson, who co-authored the report, observed that New Zealand was currently "on track for the best-case scenario given the government's measures."

"If we are successful [in eliminating the virus], we will start to see that in the coming weeks," he said.

New Zealand is currently under a four-week lockdown starting the night of March 25.

"That will definitely be the best outcome because it may mean relatively few hospitalizations and deaths and it might mean we are able to open up the economy, though maintaining very good border control until we get a vaccine.

"New Zealand has been in a good position and as an island nation it can have very good border control with quarantine, so we're in a situation where we really have adopted the best strategy which is the elimination one and very few other countries have been able to do that," he added. 

Global situation

More than 37,800 people have died of the virus globally, with over 787,600 cases confirmed worldwide, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The data shows that the virus has spread to 178 countries, and that over 166,200 have been discharged after recovery.

Despite the rising number of cases, most people who get infected suffer only mild symptoms and make a recovery.

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