New Zealand suffers record number of COVID deaths after harsh restrictions slightly eased

The South Pacific island nation of New Zealand took the decidedly authoritarian approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — including harsh lockdowns, strict limits on travel and personal freedom, and mandates for masks and vaccines — that have only begun to be partially relaxed this year.

That approach was likely a mistake as it only delayed the inevitable and New Zealand experienced an explosion of COVID cases in the spring and has now set a “record” for the number of COVID deaths over the latest week for which figures are available, Breitbart reported.

Incredibly, some public health officials are now strongly urging the government to quickly reinstate at least some of the relaxed restrictions, such as mask mandates and limitations on gatherings and travel, but, at least as of now, the New Zealand government appears reluctant to do so.

COVID death rate increasing

Reuters reported that for the week that ended July 16, there had been 151 COVID deaths in the country, well above the previous record of 115 deaths during a week in March, and included 26 deaths in the final 24-hour period of that latest week.

There were also at least 64,780 confirmed cases in that week, out of a total population of 5.1 million, though authorities suspected the actual number of infections is much higher but unknown due to individuals not checking in with doctors or getting tested.

The New Zealand Herald reported Thursday that there were 8,728 new cases that brought the rolling seven-day new cases average to 8,913, down from 9,994 a week earlier. The total number of confirmed COVID deaths in the country stood at 1,954 and the weekly average for reported deaths was 26 per day, and virtually all of those deaths were among people aged 60 years or older.

Meanwhile, there were 759 people in the hospital with COVID, 13 of whom were in intensive care, which bumped the seven-day hospitalization average up to 764 from an average of 700 one week earlier.

Of those hospitalized, 55 were unvaccinated, four were only partially vaccinated, 76 were fully vaccinated, and 425 were doubled vaccinated and boosted.

Some officials urge PM Ardern to refocus on COVID, reimpose restrictions

According to Australia’s ABC network, the “concerning” number of COVID deaths in New Zealand gave that nation the dubious honor of having one of the world’s highest daily death rates, per World Health Organization statistics.

That concern has prompted some public health officials to urge the government to strengthen its mask mandates — masks are currently required in most retail stores, public transportation, and government buildings, but not in schools — and to reimpose pre-departure testing requirements on travelers headed to New Zealand.

Radio New Zealand reported that the pre-departure testing requirement was only relaxed in June — travelers are still required to test twice within a week after arriving — and, during that span, the number of new cases among travelers has increased by five times over the previous number.

As for the rising number of cases and deaths and demands by some that harsh restrictions be reimposed to slow the spread, The Guardian reported last week that some officials are blaming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for shifting her focus away from the pandemic too much in order to address other issues like inflation, trade, and national security.

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