Covid-19 Delta outbreak editorial: Hospitals are holding fast and credit is due


Another exposure event at Middlemore Hospital this week has meant standing down 21 staff to isolate and wait for test results. As if we needed reminding, this is the fate most other nations in the world have been faced with and fallen on.

Once hospitals are depleted of active staff, exhaustion sets in at every level and services become overrun.

To date, our fortune has held and - touch wood - it will hold again. The Ministry of Health pointed out the remarkable reality on Tuesday that not one exposure event at Middlemore Hospital had so far resulted in Covid transmission to other patients or staff.

"While there have been a number of exposure events at Middlemore Hospital, this is not unexpected as there are a number of subclusters in South Auckland, for which Middlemore is the local hospital," the ministry said.

Middlemore has been steadily buffeted with Covid cases during this Delta outbreak and has held firm. Credit is due to the staff and administration. Two weeks ago, Middlemore dealt with six Covid-positive patients on one night, including two who turned up at the emergency department and later tested positive.

Other Auckland hospitals have not fared so well. Five hospital staff across Auckland have tested positive for Covid-19 since cases emerged last weekend.

Two Auckland City Hospital staff returned positive tests on Monday morning after another staff member tested positive. At North Shore Hospital two staff members returned positive results on Monday. All five are fully vaccinated, and hopefully they will soon recover.

Hospitals know what they are in for.

The number of cases as yet unlinked to known clusters has grown five-fold in a week. Auckland cases have doubled, on average, every 12 days. Continuing this trend will mean 160 cases by early next month.

As the number of Covid cases increases in the community, the likelihood of hospital services and staff being confronted with positive cases also rises.

Outside Auckland, Waikato and Northland have so far been spared the bloom of community transmission, although two cases in the Waikato haven't yet been linked to the current outbreak. Coromandel did well to test and vaccinate at the beginning of the Delta outbreak. North Waikato communities rallied to stifle exposure events, while it's been more than a week since a Raglan location of interest was visited by a positive case.

Northland has nervous days ahead waiting for test results after more than half a dozen locations of interest have been cited by the ministry - a number which may grow as positive cases are feared to be reluctant to come forward.

Breaches of the restrictions receive much publicity. Rightly so, as lives are on the line. Still, there is as yet no evidence of spread in Northland and no traces of Covid from wastewater samples.

The vast majority of Aucklanders are doing their best to hold firm against the threat for as long as possible. This will allow more people time to be vaccinated. The more people that take advantage of this effort, the better we will all be.

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