18 December 2022

Covid-19 cases rising in the south, affecting workplaces

The number of people testing positive for Covid-19 has been increasing in the south for more than three months and some workplaces are feeling the pinch.

On December 12, there were 2898 active cases in the Southland/Otago region.

And Ministry of Health data shows Covid-19 cases have been rising since late September.

There was an average of just 62 reported cases a day over the seven-day period between September 21-27, but the numbers have risen to the point where an average of 434 cases a day were reported over the seven days between December 7-13.

Southland Business Chamber president Neil McAra agreed Covid-19 cases were rising, saying it was putting pressure on already short-staffed businesses.

“Definitely employers are noticing the impact on short-term absentee rates as a consequence of Covid,” McAra said.

The Covid-related absenteeism was impacting on all sectors, particularly hospitality and tourism businesses in their busy part of the year.

Chamber chief executive Sheree Carey said more people were catching Covid-19 as they got more complacent and mask wearing was not required.

“There are teams of people going down, two or three, which is a lot of people for small workplaces to deal with.”

However, on a positive note, the new Covid-19 rules meant household contacts no longer had to also self- isolate, meaning their workplaces also didn’t lose staff.

“But we are definitely noticing it’s back, and there’s another wave in town.”

The timing was bad, not only for busy workplaces such as hospitality and retail, but also for holidaymakers, she said.

“No-one wants to be self-isolating on their Christmas break.”

A Health Ministry spokesperson confirmed cases had been increasing across New Zealand in recent weeks, including the southern region.

The cases did not count those people who had tested positive but failed to report the result.

“Based on wastewater monitoring, we believe there is a level of under-reporting of Covid-19 cases,” he said.

The increasing number of people contracting Covid-19 was not unexpected, with likely reasons including the new complex mix of variants circulating, people’s waning immunity and changes in people’s behaviour.

There were a mix of Omicron variants circulating across the country, but there was no evidence any variant was more likely to cause severe illness than previous Omicron subvariants, such as BA.2 and BA.5.

Some new variants had proven more effective at evading immunity, the ministry spokesman said.

Last week, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand southern communications team reported the Dunedin Public Hospital was at high capacity because of high presentations to the Emergency Department, an increase in Covid-19 cases and staff illness.

A Covid-19 exposure event on Ward 3 Surgical C resulted in the temporary closure of the ward to visitors, except on compassionate grounds.

The Covid-19 ward also has visitor restrictions.

Source: The Southland Times – 18 December 2022

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