New Zealand Covid comparison

Worldwide Covid cases may have peaked but new daily cases are still running at 2-300,000 a day, and deaths are still averaging over five thousand a day.

Total cases are over 28 million, and total deaths over 900,000.

New Zealand has generally been praised over our dealing with Covid. We tend to quibble over relatively minor restrictions, and a small resurgence, but comparatively we have done very well to date.

This is how New Zealand ranks with the world (on Worldometer which includes some regions as well as countries):

  • Population: 5,002,100 – 122nd
  • Active cases: 114 – 160th
  • Total cases: 1,793 (includes probable) – 150th
  • Cases per 1 million population: 358 – 164th
  • Total deaths: 24 – 152nd
  • Deaths per 1 million population: 4.8 – 160th
  • Total tests: 848,420 – 59th
  • Tests per 1 million population: 169,313 – 37th

This shows that we are doing relatively well, and I think we can be assured that our statistics are reasonably accurate.

There are 213 countries or territories on the list so quite a few have better statistics, but some of those may not be as complete or accurate.

But we have relatively minor things to complain about here.

Jobs and businesses and the economy are issues and we may not have seen the worst effects yet, but so far things aren’t too bad.

Government warns about ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’ on Covid

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins has warned against ‘fake news’ and ‘misinformation’ on Covid, saying it risked extending transmission of the virus, and that risked keeping the country in level 2. This put freedoms and jobs and businesses at risk.

RNZ: Public warned as fake news, misinformation, conspiracy theories threaten Covid-19 response

Fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories are threatening to derail the country’s Covid-19 response and impede progress to alert level 1.

The government has sounded a strong warning after revealing people linked to the Mt Roskill church cluster were sceptical about the seriousness of the pandemic – while a researcher is raising the alarm about far-right groups and fringe political leaders also entering the fray.

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins fronted this afternoon’s Covid-19 briefing with a plea to “think twice before sharing information that can’t be verified”.

He said looking overseas, it was plain to see the coronavirus was “very, very real” and “very, very deadly”, with no vaccine – and while he wanted a co-operative approach, he did not rule out punitive measures for people who continue to deliberately spread lies.

It follows warnings that some church groups are facing a battle to deter the spread of false information among their communities.

Sociologist Paul Spoonley had his eye on tertiary institutions and groups with far-right views setting up on campuses who were “talking to those suggestible, who are keen to hear about alternative views”.

“They are certainly spreading misinformation about various aspects of the pandemic and who is behind it,” he said.

The other source of rumours that worried Spoonley was fringe political leaders.

I certainly don’t want the country and myself put at risk by bullshit peddlers.

So, should I not allow anyone to promote conspiracy ‘theories’ or false information or claims without evidence here on Covid?

Perhaps I have a responsibility to do something like this.

The freedom to promote different views, and to discuss and debate topical issues is important here.

But I need to draw a line and not allow the promotion of ignorant or deliberate misinformation or false or unsupported claims that could be damaging to our communities and country.

I probably won’t get too drastic, but I may do more to hold to account those who make dubious claims or promote obvious bullshit.

This means that suspect comments may be parked until I have time to deal with them.

So take this as a warning from me. Open discussion does not mean open slather to promoters of bullshit, or of claims not supported by credible evidence.

I really can’t be bothered with anti-social messaging here. I have to decide what is fake or false versus genuine discussion, but I will change my approach on this. I’d rather err towards responsibility here, which is on me rather than on commenters.

NZ suicide rates lower

New Zealand has had a major problem with deaths by suicide – they have risen to nearly double the road toll. There is a slight glimmer of hope, with the number and rate of suicides dropping slightly in the year to June 2020, both the lowest of the last three years.

There was unsubstantiated claims (via social media) that the Covid pandemic and lockdowns would increase the number of suicides but that appears to be false.

Stuff: Chief Coroner opposes rumours suicide rate increased during Covid-19 lockdown

Reports that New Zealand’s suicide rate increased during Covid-19 lockdown have been opposed by the Chief Coroner.

Judge Deborah Marshall noted the rumours – which were spread on social media by someone claiming to be in contact with a police officer – were “incorrect”.

“I can confirm based on the provisional numbers I have, this is incorrect,” she explained.

She labelled the reports of a reported rise in suicide rates in Alert Level 4 as “concerning”.

“The provisional trend suggests the suicide rate was lower during the Alert Level 4 period than the 33 days prior to it (22 February – 25 March 2020).

“The suicide rate during Alert Level 4 was also lower than the rate for the same period from 2008 to 2020.”

New Zealand Police and the Mental Health Foundation previously said there was no evidence to support such claims. The Foundation slammed the rumour as false and potentially dangerous.

The rumour stemmed from a tweet that claimed an unnamed police officer informed the account holder of a massive increase in suicides across the country. The tweet and account was later deleted.

Police Assistant Commissioner Sandy Venables told Stuff earlier in the month there was no official data released yet, and the number of mental health call-outs appeared steady.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said there was “absolutely no truth” to the rumour and that it was “totally irresponsible and untrue”.

The statistics July-June (provisional, it can take coroners some time to determine causes of death) with rate per 100,000 in brackets:

  • 2007/2008 – 540 (12.20)
  • 2008/2009 – 531 (12.04)
  • 2009/2010 – 541 (12.16)
  • 2010/2011 – 558 (12.65)
  • 2011/2012 – 547 (12.34)
  • 2012/2013 – 541 (12.10)
  • 2013/2014 – 529 (11.73)
  • 2014/2015 – 564 (12.27)
  • 2015/2016 – 579 (12.33)
  • 2016/2017 – 606 (12.64)
  • 2017/2018 – 668 (13.67)
  • 2018/2019 – 685 (13.93)
  • 2019/2020 – 654 (13.01)

Source: Provisional figures – August 2020 [PDF, 880 KB]

Chief Coroner Releases Annual Provision Suicide Figures:

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall today released the annual provisional suicide statistics, which show the provisional suicide rate is at its lowest in three years.

In the year to 30 June 2020, 654 people died by suicide, compared to 685 the year before – a decrease of 31 deaths, and a drop in the suicide rate from 13.93 deaths per 100,000 to 13.01.

“While it is encouraging to see the suspected suicide rate and number drop for the past year, it’s important to remember that there are still more than 650 families who have lost someone in tragic circumstances,” Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall says.

“My sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who died by suspected suicide in the past year.”

There was a decrease in the number of young people dying by suspected suicide, particularly in the 15-19 age range (down from 73 to 59) and the 20-24 age range (down from 91 to 60). Both rates decreased from 23.14 to 18.69 and from 26.87 to 17.77 respectively.

However, there was an increase in suspected suicides in the 80-84 age range, with 12 more people dying by suicide in the past year (18) than the year before (6). The rate increased from 6.49 to 19.48.

The Māori and Pacific Island suspected suicide rates both decreased over the past year, from 21.78 to 20.24 and from 8.91 to 7.07 respectively. The European rate also dropped from 13.02 to 12.08.

However, the Asian rate went up from 5.09 to 7.91 – an increase of 20 deaths.

“Throughout this year there has been unhelpful and irresponsible public commentary on the effect COVID-19 would have on the suicide rate,” Judge Marshall says. “During the first lockdown period I said it was unhelpful to release figures for such a short time frame, as it is nearly impossible to draw sound conclusions, nor do I believe such public discourse is helpful to people in distress.

“I’m encouraged by the work the Suicide Prevention Office has started and for the reliable, strong and hope-filled voice that director Carla na Nagara has added to the wider public discourse.”

Covid death and another man in coma

At yesterday’s 1 pm Covid briefing Dr Ashley Bloomfield advised that there were five new Covid cases, three in the community and two in isolation, and there were 6 cases in hospital.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also advised Cabinet had decided that the Covid alert levels would remain the same, probably until 16 September.

But later in the afternoon it was announced that there had been a Covid death after the family of a man in his fifties who had worked at the Americold coolstore in West Auckland had turned off his life support on Friday morning.

The man was 58 and is the youngest to have died of Covid in New Zealand. The last Covid death here was on 28 May.

This is very sad for the family, and it is a reminder to the country that the virus can be lethal.

The timing of the announcement may have been due to how long it takes to inform family etc, but the Ministry of Health must have been aware at least of the seriousness of the man’s condition, and I would expect them to have made this information known to Cabinet prior to them making their decision yesterday.

This is how the Covid newsletter announced the death (sent out at 5:20 pm Friday):

COVID-19 related death in Auckland

We are sad to report the death of a man at Middlemore Hospital, linked to COVID-19. The man in his 50s was part of the current community cluster in Auckland and died earlier today. The man was a confirmed case of COVID-19. He was admitted to Middlemore as an inpatient via ED from quarantine and then cared for in the ICU. 

His family were regularly updated, the hospital facilitated contact using virtual technologies and his wife and son were able to visit him, using full PPE. His wife has expressed the family’s gratitude to the Middlemore Hospital staff for their care and compassion. 

This means the number of COVID-19 related deaths in New Zealand is now 23. 

Counties Manukau Health has acknowledged this, the DHB’s first COVID-19 related death, with the following mihi.

Kua riromai teetahi ika pounamu o te wao nui a Taane.  E tangi ana, haaere, 
Whakangaro atu ra, 
Ki te Kaakaarauri oki oki 

RNZ: Man dies from Covid-19 in Middlemore Hospital

The man was a confirmed case of Covid-19 and was being cared for in intensive care at Middlemore.

The ministry said his family were regularly updated, and his wife and son were able to visit him, using full PPE.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he acknowledged the anxiety New Zealanders “may be feeling about today’s news, both in the wider community and also for the family and whanau grieving over this death”.

“Our thoughts are with his family and community at this time of loss and grief.

“We have always recognised that further deaths linked to Covid-19 were possible. Although the health system has done and will continue to do everything we can to prevent them, this can be a very challenging virus to treat and for some people to recover from.

“Today’s news reinforces the importance of our shared vigilance against Covid-19, the very serious consequences the virus can carry with it, and the measures we all need to take to stop the spread, break any chain of transmission and prevent deaths.”

1 News: Father-of-two taken off life support today was NZ’s first Covid-19 death in over three months

The man, identified to 1 NEWS by a relative as Auckland-based Americold employee Alan Te Hiko, 58, died at Middlemore Hospital after family took him off life support this morning.

His case was linked to the ongoing Auckland community cluster.

It is the first Covid-19 related death in New Zealand since May 28, over three months ago.

Te Hiko, a father of two originally from Tokoroa, is the youngest person to have died from the virus in New Zealand.

According to the Ministry of Health, his wife has expressed the family’s gratitude to the Middlemore Hospital staff for their care and compassion.

The family member told 1 NEWS his wife, son and daughter remain at a quarantine facility, and his brother is currently in an induced coma in Waikato Hospital.

So a brother of the man who died is also in a serious condition. Tough times for the wider family.

This makes the decision to not change the alert level for nearly two weeks the right one, but that decision must surely have been informed by the serious condition of the two men and probably of the death.

Lockdowns essential for suppressing Covid but not long term solution

Returning to Covid lockdowns in New Zealand, in particular in Auckland, has meant a return to arguments over whether they are effective or a sustainable means of reducing deaths and long term health problems inflicted by the virus.

People lacking in expertise pushing for so-called ‘herd immunity’ using flawed analysis based on limited data, even if well intentioned, adds to a lot of misinformation.

But while lockdowns are a short term means of preventing large scale infections and deaths, and by preventing barely adequate at the best of times health systems from becoming overloaded. But:

“It is clear that this is not seasonal flu.”

“No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine.”

Political pundits like Matthew Hooton are not knowledgeable enough about viruses to ton use their usual media ‘opinion’ advocacy to advise us what is the best approach to dealing with Covid.

In Hooton’s latest “armchair epidemiological reckons, I emphasised that he does not have the skills to analyse epidemiological data…he unfortunately makes rookie mistakes again.”

Dr Jin Russell takes issue with the opinion column by Hooton. This gives more insight into dealing with the pandemic than a political pusher.

In my last set of tweets on @MatthewHootonNZ‘s armchair epidemiological reckons, I emphasised that he does not have the skills to analyse epidemiological data. In his latest Herald piece, he unfortunately makes rookie mistakes again.

He includes a table of the 1330 covid cases in NZ; and describes a hospitalisation rate of 4%; with no deaths under 60 years; and “only” a 30% chance of dying in the 80+ group.

I think that most people would see a one in three chance of people over 80 dying from Covid as a very good reason to try to minimise it’s spread. Quarantining all the elderly only is not a viable option, nor i think socially acceptable, nor practical.

The gist is he’s minimising the risk of covid based on NZ MOH data; but this is really flawed.

Flawed in two ways:

1. The only variable he is taking into account in his mortality projection appears to be Age; and

2. Because he accounts only for mortality and not for morbidity associated with Covid-19. Let’s explore these.

Let’s explore these.

1. The only risk factor he highlights is Age. Yes, increasing age increases risk of mortality from covid, as we can see even from our small NZ sample. But that’s not the only risk factor for dying from covid.

This July paper published in Nature analysed other risk factors – Factors associated with COVID-19-related death using OpenSAFELY

Comorbidities such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, and others are known to correlate with increased risk of mortality from covid. Let’s look at these risk factors for the NZ population.

Diabetes: We have very high numbers of people with diabetes in NZ. An estimated 200,000 people in NZ have diabetes; with the prevalence in Māori & Pacific persons three times higher than NZ Europeans.
– MOH: About diabetes

Obesity: New Zealand has the 3rd highest obesity rate amongst adults in the OECD, with 1 in 3 adult NZers obese, and 1 in 10 children. Once again, this is disproportionately found amongst deprived communities; Māori and Pacific families.

Asthma: NZ has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world; the Asthma Foundation estimates 597,000 NZers take medication for asthma (1 in 8 adults, higher for children) with a very high burden of respiratory admissions amongst children amongst deprived families.

The Nature paper also found that people of “Black” and “South Asian” ethnicity were at increased risk of mortality. It’s important to realise that so far our current NZ covid cases are overwhelmingly amongst Europeans.
– see Stats NZ: COVID-19 data portal

In epidemiological terms, we would refer to our NZ dataset of a miserly 1665 cases (cases! deaths only 22) to be a “biased” sample; with a hopelessly small sample size. In other words, we are unable to draw any accurate predictions on how covid would impact our population from the MOH data we have.

We can’t look at our MOH data and make inferences that the virus would have this many in hospital, this many dead or chronically affected, etc, as the sample is too small, and not representative of how covid impacts populations as a whole

This is why review of the literature, and understanding of other factors is so important.

It’s not just deaths that are a problem. There are serious long term health implications for people who get Covid.

Let’s talk about morbidity from covid – what complications can it cause?

A paper published in Nature Medicine describes non-pulmonary complications from Covid-19. If it doesn’t get you in the lungs, how does it harm you? Amongst those hospitalised or seriously unwell, 30% had acute cardiac muscle injury, up to 30% acute kidney injury, 6% stroke, up to 52% signs of liver injury, 8-9% confusion or impaired consciousness.


See Nature Extrapulmonary manifestations of COVID-19

It is clear that this is not seasonal flu.

On top of that, there is increasing evidence of a post-covid syndrome, with chronic breathlessness and fatigue.

So far, we have understood that we have a very high burden of comorbidities that would make NZers more likely to die or do poorly compared to other countries, and that it would disproportionately affect our Māori, Pasific and South Asian communities. What about other factors?

Hooton doesn’t discuss this at all – a really, really important variable to consider – our healthcare capacity. In March, prior to lockdown, NZ had a total of 153 ICU beds.
RNZ (March 2020) – 153 intensive care beds in country – survey

And, of those 153 beds, just to drive the point home, only 24 were at Auckland City Hospital. Of the 24 ICU beds at our country’s largest hospital, only 6 were isolation beds. Those beds are not empty all the time, they run close to capacity.

So…we had to lockdown.

The number of ICU beds was supposed to be tripled – RNZ (May 2020) ICU beds increase as ministry tries to triple capacity

I’m not sure if that has happened yet, but even if we had the target 358 beds, that wouldn’t even get us close to the figure we would need if things got out of hand.

Our healthcare workforce is VERY thin and PPE stocks are in short supply internationally. I work in paediatrics. During Level 4 lockdown, there were plans to completely reorganise health services to treat covid patients. Thank goodness we didn’t need to go there.

To sum up – Hooton has a LONG way to go to draw any valid conclusions from our MOH data on covid. To form great public health policy, you need more skills than this. You need local understanding of our inequities, health care capacity, and distribution of comorbidities.

You need to be informed by the literature, and come to considered judgements. This is very sloppy opining, what a shame he didn’t contact some of the many very lovely, very experienced epidemiologists and infectious disease experts within his own institution.

As well as business and economic experts.

Covid is too serious and too complex for the pundit political pusher approach.

See also, from WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 21 August 2020

Globally, there are now more than 22 million reported cases of COVID-19, and 780,000 deaths.

But it’s not just the numbers of cases and deaths that matter. In many countries, the number of patients who need hospitalization and advanced care remains high, putting huge pressure on health systems and affecting the provision of services for other health needs.

Several countries around the world are now experiencing fresh outbreaks after a long period with little or no transmission.

These countries are a cautionary tale for those that are now seeing a downward trend in cases.

Progress does not mean victory.

The fact remains that most people remain susceptible to this virus.

That’s why it’s vital that countries are able to quickly identify and prevent clusters, to prevent community transmission and the possibility of new restrictions.

No country can just ride this out until we have a vaccine.

A vaccine will be a vital tool, and we hope that we will have one as soon as possible.

But there’s no guarantee that we will, and even if we do have a vaccine, it won’t end the pandemic on its own.

We must all learn to control and manage this virus using the tools we have now, and to make the adjustments to our daily lives that are needed to keep ourselves and each other safe.

So-called lockdowns enabled many countries to suppress transmission and take the pressure off their health systems.

But lockdowns are not a long-term solution for any country.

We do not need to choose between lives and livelihoods, or between health and the economy. That’s a false choice.

On the contrary, the pandemic is a reminder that health and the economy are inseparable.

But there doesn’t seem too be many experts on both epidemiology and economic matters.

Covid-19: 100 days no community transmission

There has been 100 days of no detected community transmission of Covid-19 in New Zealand. All the new cases since the beginning of May have come into the country and been contained in isolation or quarantine.

As at 9 August:

  • Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand: 1,219
  • Number of probable cases: 350
  • Number of confirmed and probable cases: 1,569
  • Number of deaths: 22
  • Number of active cases: 23
  • Number of cases currently in hospital: 0

Over the last week there has been 3-5000 tests done a day with no positive results from the community.

This has been a very successful management of Covid here due to the actions of the Ministry of Health and the Government, due to a mostly compliant population, and due to some luck.

While some states and territories in Australia have also managed to restrict Covid very well Melbourne and Victoria have had a bad month after Covid got out into the community and spread rapidly, and the death toll has nearly trebled to 295.

Yesterday’s daily update in Victoria:

  • As of 9 August 2020, the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria is 14,659 with 394 new cases diagnosed since yesterday.
  • Of the new cases, 49 are linked to outbreaks or complex cases and 345 are under investigation.
  • There are 2,758 cases that may indicate community transmission, an increase of 174 since yesterday’s report.
  • 634 people are in hospital, including 43 patients in intensive care.  
  • Sadly, there have been 17 new deaths reported since yesterday. To date, 210 people have died from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria.
  • There are 7,854 cases currently active in Victoria. 6,378 people have recovered.
  • More than 1,801,300 tests have been processed – an increase of 41,416 since yesterday.

That looks grim for Victoria, and a concern here – like many Kiwis I have relations living there.

Opening trans-Tasman borders looks some time off at best. I doubt I will be able to get my planned Australian visit in this year.

Worldwide there are still major problems with Covid, with total cases nearing 20 million and 726 thousand recorded deaths.

As at the end of 8 August GMT here are the worst 20 countries (Worldometer):

A quarter of total cases (now over 5 million) and over a fifth of total deaths (165 thousand) have been in the United States.

Brazil has also been bad (now over 100 thousand deaths), and Mexico and India are having increasing problems

Europe had had major problems but Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and the UK seem to have mostly got things under control.

But as resurgences in Victoria and some US states have shown, it is easy for Covid to get put of control.

The impact of Covid is likely to continue at least for the rest of the year and probably well into next year.

I’m very grateful that Covid is under control here, but I’m aware that it is far from over, and the economic impact is likely to increase from September after wage subsidies run out this month.

More Trump ignorance on Covid testing

Donald Trump has been again combined contradictory and ignorant claims about Covid testing with an attack on media.

The US has done more testing than any other country, but Israel, Russia, Singapore, UK, Denmark and a bunch of small countries have done more testing per head of population (US is 19th on the WorldInfo list).

Testing is a critical means of controlling Covid, but the raw number of tests doesn’t say much anyway. Here’s some percentages of other numbers

USA has:

  • 4.26% of the world population
  • 17.28% of Covid tests
  • 22.93% of Covid deaths
  • 26.45% of total cases
  • 28.48% of serious/critical cases
  • 37.63% of active cases

Those are numbers are only based on recorded statistics so won’t be 100%, but give an obvious indication that the US is struggling with Covid.

Testing matters, but the quality of testing, the timing of testing and the use of the results of the testing are more important than raw numbers.

Testing in the US showed that Covid was still widespread in the US when Trump and some states pushed for relaxing lockdowns. Covid got worse – deaths have been trending back upwards there through July, and this week were the highest since May.

Tests are important but it’s how you use the tests that matter.

Note that New Zealand is included and rates very well on these charts.


New Zealand’s testing rate of 93,574 per million is much less than the US rate of 177,883 per million, but we have 4 deaths per million compared to the US rate of 475 so we don’t need to do as much testing.

Our testing peaked at over 10,000 per day in June – when we came out of lockdown and wanted to make sure Covid was under control – and is now peaking at 3,000 per day. We need to make sure we don’t have community transmission, but because fewer people have symptoms or concerns, fewer get tested.

Reuters: U.S. records over 25,000 coronavirus deaths in July

U.S. coronavirus deaths rose by over 25,000 in July and cases doubled in 19 states during the month, according to a Reuters tally, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of quickly reopening the economy.

The United States recorded 1.87 million new cases in July, bringing total infections to 4.5 million, for an increase of 69%. Deaths in July rose 20% to nearly 154,000 total.

The biggest increases in July were in Florida, with over 310,000 new cases, followed by California and Texas with about 260,000 each. All three states saw cases double in June.

Cases also more than doubled in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the tally.

The United States shattered single-day global records when it reported over 77,000 new cases on July 16. During July, 33 out of the 50 U.S. states had one-day record increases in cases and 19 set records for their rise in deaths in 24 hours, according to a Reuters tally.

We have virtually no restrictions because we have Covid under control here.

And Covid isn’t the only worrying statistic in the US.

The news that more states could be hard hit by the virus comes a day after the U.S. reported that gross domestic product collapsed at a 32.9% annualized rate in the second quarter, the nation’s worst economic performance since the Great Depression.

We may be able to keep Covid out of New Zealand, but it will be difficult to avoid the economic impact.

Odd tweets about testing doesn’t address the problems the US still face.

Vaccines are being fast tracked but at best it will be some time before they limit the Covid damage.

Reuters: U.S. makes deal for 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, deaths expected to rise

Two major drug companies will supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, the Trump administration said on Friday, as the nation’s top health agency predicted that fatalities would rise in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Friday forecast between 168,000 and 182,000 total fatalities by August 22, predicting that deaths will rise fastest in Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and Washington state.

The CDC also released a study that said COVID-19 had spread to nearly half the staff and campers at a sleep-away camp in Georgia over a week and a half ago.

The investigation demonstrated “that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission.”

Coronavirus deaths in the United States are rising at their fastest rate since early June. Roughly one American died about every minute from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Wisconsin joined 21 other states that have seen a surge in new cases.

The COVID-19 outbreak “is not in good control” in Wisconsin said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

This isn’t fake news. Many US states are having very real problems with Covid.

While the president keeps fiddling with twitter his country burns.

A million new Covid cases in 5 days

In New Zealand we fret about each of a handful of people arriving in the country not staying in isolation for 14 days while life has returned more or less to normal for most of us.

But Covid-19 is causing a lot of concern with a surge in cases around the world.The World Health Organisation chief warns that it will continue to get worse unless many countries change how they are dealing with the virus.

There has been a million new Covid-19 cases in five days, with now over 13 million cases in total recorded.

The death toll has flattened (but is showing signs of rising again following the surge in cases), suggesting a number of possibilities – health care and prevention of deaths has been improved, infected populations are younger and less vulnerable, newer strains of virus are not as lethal – but still the current death toll is 573,000 and going up by thousands a day.

There is an obvious concern that the death rate will follow the case rate upwards, but the daily toll is bad enough as it is.

Reuters:  WHO sounds alarm as coronavirus cases rise by one million in five days

The number of coronavirus infections around the world hit 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, climbing by a million in just five days.

The pandemic has now killed more than half a million people in six-and-a-half months, and World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there would be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future, especially if preventive measures were neglected.

“Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” he told a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

“If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go, it is going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way.”

Parts of the world, especially the United States with more than 3.3 million confirmed cases, are still seeing huge increases in a first wave of COVID-19 infections, while others “flatten the curve” and ease lockdowns.

Some places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne and Leicester in England, are implementing a second round of shutdowns.

The Melbourne surge means that trans-Tasman travel will remain off limits to Kiwis for some time, and reopening borders to the rest of the world looks to be months away at least.

The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In Brazil, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died.

India, the country with the third highest number of infections, has been contending with an average of 23,000 new infections each day since the beginning of July.

In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect a smaller proportion of total infections. Experts say official data probably under-represents both infections and deaths.

Covid is affecting the United States more than most countries, with a third of the new cases there. And the health problems aren’t limited to Covid.

Reuters: New U.S. health crisis looms as patients without COVID-19 delay care

A Texas man who waited until his brain tumor was softball-sized; a baby who suffered an ear infection for six days; a heart patient who died: The resurgence of COVID-19 is creating another health crisis as hospitals fill and patients are fearful or unable to get non-emergency care.

With U.S. coronavirus infections reaching new heights, doctors and hospitals say they are also seeing sharp declines in patients seeking routine medical care and screenings – and a rise in those who have delayed care for so long they are far sicker than they otherwise would be.

After the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March, many states banned non-essential medical procedures, and the number of patients seeking care for other ailments took a nosedive. Hospitals and medical practices were hit hard financially.

Emergency department use dropped by 42% during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic despite a rise in patients presenting with symptoms of the coronavirus, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. In the same period, patients seeking care for heart attacks dropped by 23% and stroke care by 20%.

This is a real problem but with no easy solutions. If Covid was even less contained people with other health problems would be exposed more.

…the recent surge in cases has swamped hospitals in many states, including Texas, Arizona, Florida and parts of California.

But with new COVID-19 cases swamping the hospital, sickening nearly 30 staff members and forcing it to divert non-coronavirus cases to other facilities for several days, Wolcott fears that again patients with heart conditions and other illnesses will stay away.

“We won’t know for years how many people lost their lives or lost good years of their lives for fear of coronavirus,” he said.

While individual states are responsible for a lot of their handling of Covid it doesn’t help that the country’s leadership has been hopeless. Donald Trump remains intent on reopening businesses and schools and abusing those trying to deal with the pandemic.

Reuters: Trump swipes at Fauci, CDC as U.S. coronavirus cases rise

President Donald Trump on Monday took swipes at health experts in his government leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, as his relationship further frayed with top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci.

In the early morning, Trump retweeted to his 83 million followers the accusations of a former game show host that “everyone is lying,” including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust,” Chuck Woolery wrote Sunday night without citing evidence.

The White House did not respond to questions on whether the president believed the CDC was lying.

Tensions with Fauci have risen with the decline of Trump’s popularity in the polls over the president’s handling of the outbreak. Fauci’s plain-spoken assessments during White House coronavirus briefings have made him a household name.

Trump told the Fox News Channel on Thursday that “Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.” Fauci said in a Financial Times interview the following day he has not briefed Trump in two months.

Trump appears to be finally losing trust and support with the US people as he slides in the polls, with the highest disapproval levels for two and a half years. He is more concerned with his own re-election chances than people getting sick and dying, but poorly as he is lagging and slipping further behind an old, lacklustre Joe Biden.

He is even turning on his favoured Fox:

But that is a sad sideshow. Covid is a crisis that doesn’t look like going away, with major immediate effects and major longer term implications.

At least here in New Zealand Covid is well under control. We just have to hope the impact on business and jobs isn’t too harsh as we observe from a distance as many other countries struggling with far greater problems.



Early immigrants – class war refugees from the English countryside

While a lot of attention is now given to the oppression of Maori by colonialism, many of the early immigrants to Aotearoa New Zealand were oppressed landless rural people from Britain.

The first big immigration to New Zealand from Britain was in the four decades from the 1840s to the 1870s.

Initially many immigrants came via various organised schemes, until a surge in the 1960s of those chasing fortunes the gold rush – many of these moved from gold rushes elsewhere, particularly Australia but also the United States.

Scott Hamilton (@SikotiHamiltonR) has pointed to an interesting reference to last of these four decades:

As well as learning more about Polynesian history, Pakeha need to recover their repressed pasts. Rollo Arnold’s essential book shows that many who migrated here in the 1870s were refugees from class war in the English countryside. The settlers soon buried their old identities.


Rollo Arnold (1981)


From the preface:

THE PEOPLE OF New Zealand are predominantly of British stock, the descendants mainly of immigrants of an initial founding period extending over the four decades from 1840 to 1880. The foundation stock came overwhelmingly from humble origins in the old country, with rural labourers and village artisans providing the main elements.

The majority had been ‘selected’ for assisted passages to the colony, in the earlier years by the settlement associations inspired by Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s theories; in the 1850s and 1860s under various schemes sponsored by the provincial governments, and in the 1870s under an ambitious and highly successful scheme undertaken by the General Government.

This book is a study in some depth of one major group of assisted immigrants, the recruits of the 1870s from rural England.

In the 1870s, however, as a result of the Revolt of the Field, the English rural labourer became articulate as never before, so that a large and probably unique body of first hand reportage on the immigration experience has been preserved from this decade.


ENGLAND’S FARM LABOURERS had been coveted by New Zealand right from the founding of the colony, but repeated endeavours had failed to recruit them in anything like the numbers desired. Genuine agricultural labourers formed too small a proportion of the assisted emigrants which the New Zealand Company sent out in the 1840s as the pioneer settlers of its new colonies.

When the New Zealand provincial governments from time to time entered the immigration field in the 1850s and 1860s, they found that agricultural labourers were the ‘most difficult to get and the most difficult to move when they are got at’. A strong flow of immigration was an essential element in Vogel’s ambitious plans of 1870, and some members of parliament were hopeful of a large importation of the bone and sinew of rural England.

We must now examine the village world of rural England over these earlier decades, in order to gain some understanding of these labourers who were in such demand in this new community on the far side of the world. We need also to understand why they were so undervalued in the land of their birth.

Why, too, were New Zealand’s raw colonials so convinced that the English rural labourer could better himself by forsaking ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ for the lonely emptiness of their treeless plains and the blackened ugliness of their bush-burn forest clearings?

And why was it that after decades of ill-rewarded wooing, New Zealand suddenly found herself to be the ‘promised land’ of many an English village, with farm labourers flocking to her shores in their thousands. A large part of the answer to these questions lies in the conditions which led to, and the consequences which flowed from, the great Revolt of the Field which broke upon English rural society in 1872 and stirred a score of counties to the core.

The name of Joseph Arch, the Warwickshire hedgecutter who spearheaded the movement, was soon a household word in Britain, and New Zealand’s fortunes were so closely linked with rural England that in a very short time it was scarcely less well known in that distant colony.

The wages of Joseph’s father, John Arch, never rose above ten shillings a week, and it was a saving of perhaps three pounds a year in rent, together with the produce of their large garden, which enabled the family to escape the humility of soup kitchen charity, and the degradation of poor law relief, to which many of their neighbours were reduced every winter. Nevertheless, Joseph’s parents paid a price for the independent line which they followed and taught to their children.

In his autobiography Joseph tells of a duel between his mother and a despotic parson’s wife, following the latter’s issuing of a decree that all girls at the village school were to have their hair cut round like a basin. For refusing to allow her two daughters’ hair to be cut, Hannah Arch was subjected to petty persecution, and never forgiven.

Rural England in the nineteenth century presented to the world a unique social arrangement in the three-tiered system of landlord, farmer, and landless labourer. Throughout the rest of the world the bulk of the rural population owned or occupied the land they tilled — in other words, they were peasants.

If many of them were peasant serfs, this merely meant that they were obliged to meet feudal obligations of work on their lord’s property, as well as farming their own holdings. But in England most of the land was owned by the gentry, rented by the farmers, and worked by landless labourers.

This pattern was the product of the centuries, but it had become more marked and widespread in recent times, partly through the continued decline of the yeoman, the owner-occupier of a small holding, who formed an intermediate class, and partly through the further extension of enclosures of open fields, commons and wastes, which removed the labourers’ claims of property in the land. A combination of social and economic changes had, since the middle of the eighteenth century, turned the majority of village labourers into servile, demoralised men.

The measured words of Professor Hobsbawm are not too strong to describe the tragedy of this transformation:

“It is difficult to find words for the degradation which the coming of industrial society brought to the English country labourer; the men who had been ‘a bold peasantry, a country’s pride’, the sturdy and energetic ‘peasantry’ whom 18th century writers had so readily contrasted with the starveling Frenchmen, were to be described by a visiting American in the 1840s as ‘servile, broken-spirited and severely straitened in their means of living’ … From that day to this those who observed him, or who studied his fate, have searched for words eloquent enough to do justice to his oppression.”

There’s a lot of interesting things in the book. The index is here, with links to the content.

If you have ancestors who emigrated here check for family names – Index of Immigrant Surnames

I found this interesting, but my lot aren’t included.  A great grandfather came in the 1870s but isn’t referenced in the book. A grandmother came as a war bride with my grandfather after World War 1. And my mother’s family escaped from northern Wales in 1928, leaving most of that history behind – I heard very little of their past.

My first family of ancestors came here in 1851 and soon after as a part of the Canterbury settlements. They left a small rural village near Bedford called Turvey – “The population of Turvey was 758 in 1801, rising to 1,028 in 1851 and falling to 782 by 1901”. A chunk of that diminishing population came here.

Turvey history: From Turvey to New Zealand

The visitor’s book at All Saints Church contains a remarkable number of visitors from New Zealand who have come to Turvey in order to see where their ancestors lived. How did this come about and who are these ancestors? The article “The First Assisted Passage to New Zealand” details how Jane Davison from Turvey emigrated to New Zealand in 1842.

In 1848, The Canterbury Association was launched in England, receiving its Royal Charter on 13thNovember 1849, with the aim of systematically colonising New Zealand.

Early Emigrants

The 16thship to sail under this scheme was the “Canterbury” who made her maiden voyage from London’s East India Docks to Lyttleton, New Zealand on 21stJune 1851. Aboard were Turvey born Arthur Gibbs, a 38 year old agricultural labourer, his 36 year old wife Rachel (nee Harley), a Lacemaker, and their three children George (16), Kezia (13) and Rebecca (10).

Arthur and Rachel are my great great great grandparents. Kezia is my great great grandmother.

Wider family members also emigrated from Turvey and settled in Gibbs Town just north of Christchurch, renamed Woodend. A number of them moved from poor landless workers to landowners and business people here.

Between 1853 and 1870, the Provincial Governments, also keen to encourage immigration from the United Kingdom, began funding such schemes. At the same time in Turvey, life was hard for many working families, living in tied accommodation on often low incomes. Some families, particularly those attached to the Wesleyan Methodist Church, also sought greater freedom to follow their faith.

I have quite a few distant relatives from there but have never had any contact with them.

I have very little knowledge of my immigrant ancestors or their pasts, but it’s interesting to learn about the wider context of the immigrations to New Zealand. Most who came here were not exactly colonial oppressors themselves, they were poor people escaping from bleak circumstances – but by taking over land here they did impact on the colonisation problems.

Opening borders arguments

It’s probably almost universally accepted that New Zealand had to close our borders to non-citizens and residents to protect the population from the spread of Covid-19. Despite some mistakes and problems and with some luck that has been very successful, with Covid cases reduced to zero before returning New Zealanders started a dribble of cases – but these have been contained by isolation, quarantine and testing,

There is no doubt that keeping our borders closed is bad for business – especially tourism and international education, but it also affects many others trying to revive  or keep alive their business.

So when we open our borders again, how quickly and to whom is one of the biggest decisions to be made.

Yesterday National leader Todd Muller stirred things up – Todd Muller says keeping border shut ‘untenable’, but PM says opening up soon is ‘dangerous’

Muller was criticised but also what he said was misrepresented.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the idea of opening New Zealand up to countries where Covid-19 is “dangerous”.

Ardern was responding to comments from National leader Todd Muller, who said on Monday that keeping the borders shut until other countries are as free of Covid-19 as New Zealand was “untenable” in the long term.

Speaking to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Muller said New Zealand would be “on its knees” if it waited for a vaccine to be developed or for other countries to completely kill community transmission.

“A strategy that says we stay completely closed to everybody for the next 12 to 18 months is simply untenable. We won’t recognise this country in terms of economic impact,” Muller said.

Ardern said the idea of opening New Zealand up to Covid-19 any time soon was untenable and dangerous.

Ardern and Muller are talking past each other. Muller said “untenable” in the long term and “closed to everybody for the next 12 to 18 months is simply untenable”, but Ardern said “any time soon was untenable and dangerous”.

Unless Ardern sees 12 to 18 months as soon then they are talking about different timeframes.

And if the Government thinks it is untenable to open our borders in 12-18 months, then economically we are likely to have a big problem on top of the major problems we already have.

Some had hoped that a Tasman bubble may be possible in the short term but that has been put on hold after a surge of cases in Victoria – Virus resurgence in Victoria with another 75 cases

The Australian state of Victoria is experiencing a “concerning” upward trend in coronavirus infections, with 75 new cases identified overnight.

The latest cases were “overwhelmingly concentrated” in 10 Melbourne suburbs identified as community transmission hotspots, the state’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

Mikakos said the 75 new cases could be broken down into the following categories:

  • 14 cases linked to outbreaks (positive results in those tested as close contacts of existing cases)
  • 37 cases found by routine testing (general testing sites set up by health authorities)
  • 23 cases still under investigation (some were found late in the reporting day)c
  • One case is a returned traveller in hotel quarantine

So even inter-state travel in Australia is still restricted:

So even though Covid is under far better control in Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory any open travel across the Tasman looks unlikely at this stage.

But Europe has just opened their borders to a number of countries including New Zealand for economic/tourism reasons: EU to allow in visitors from 14 ‘safe’ countries

The EU has named 14 countries whose citizens are deemed “safe” to be let in from 1 July, despite the pandemic – but the US, Brazil and China are excluded.

UK nationals are still to be treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. Therefore, during that time UK nationals and their family members are exempt from the temporary travel restriction.

On the current “safe” list, still likely to be amended, are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

The UK is currently negotiating “air bridges” with several EU member states, so that coronavirus does not totally block summer holidays – the busiest season in Europe for tourism, which employs millions of people.

So Australians and New Zealanders will be able to travel to Europe but we can’t travel to Australia.

And Ardern has said that New Zealanders going to Europe for a holiday will still have to do 14 days isolation. and may not get that provided for free – Kiwis choosing to go overseas could get Covid-19 isolation bill

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern floated the idea at Monday’s post-Cabinet press conference. She has previously been asked about whether all arrivals could have to pay a share of the bill for isolation.

“One message I’m sending clearly to New Zealanders … for anyone who may be considering a non-essential trip, we will be looking at whether or not you end up being charged on your return, because you have choices.

“It’s just not fair to expect New Zealanders to pick up the tab on that.”

It’s not just the opposition calling for re-opening: Border reopening must be priority – Business NZ

The business community pinned its hopes on the border reopening as soon as possible and says the government’s failed to hold up its end of the deal.

Business leaders say billions of dollars of opportunities are on hold while the government and the army fix up mistakes most New Zealanders thought were being managed.

The government is frantically trying to plug those gaps, while at the same time the Opposition ramps up pressure for the border to open.

Almost four million international tourists typically cross New Zealand shores each year and BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said livelihoods depend on that window opening again.

But for now, the government isn’t even resuming compassionate exemptions let alone allowing international visitors in, because there isn’t enough confidence in quarantine and managed isolation facilities.


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has thrown the Opposition leader’s own words back at him.

“It is untenable to consider the idea of opening up New Zealand’s borders to Covid-19 and in some parts of the world where we have had frequent movement of people they’re not estimating that they will reach a peak for at least a month or sometimes several months”.

Ardern said even considering opening the border right now was reckless.

“Any suggestion of borders opening at this point frankly is dangerous and I don’t think we should put New Zealand in that position”.

Apart from people whose businesses and jobs are at risk there is still probably widespread support for playing safe here.

It seems a risky political play for Muller to talk this side of the election about reopening the borders.

But the public mood can change quickly – going into lockdown was widely accepted, but once the case numbers dropped many people acted ahead of Government relaxations.

There are big and difficult decisions for the Government to make over border restrictions, but it’s something that should be openly discussed. There is a lot at stake, both in health and with the economy – and there will be many more people losing their jobs than their are getting sick from Covid.

I think it is too soon to reopen our borders now, as that risks losing a lot of what we have succeeded with over the last few months.  But we also have to look ahead at options and possible timings.

Just being told we can’t travel indefinitely is not a tenable option.

I certainly don’t want to catch Covid and risk dying from it, or risk the other health effects. But if our borders remain closed for a year or two my job will be at risk (it has been impacted already). Difficult times, difficult decisions.