‘Real concern’ older age groups more affected in Omicron wave

By 1news.co.nz

It’s a “real concern” older age groups have become more affected by Covid-19 in the Omicron wave, the medical director of New Zealand’s Royal College of GPs says.

The medical director of the Royal College of GPs says hospital and death rates are higher in those over 60 and 70. (Source: 1News)

Dr Bryan Betty told Breakfast thanks to a reduction in mask use and given it’s winter, the virus is starting to move into the older age groups “where we tend to see the most vulnerable in our population affected in hospitalisations and death”.

He said this is a “real concern” amid pressure on the health system due to the virus and winter illnesses such as flu.

For those aged over 60, Betty said hospital admission rates are higher and death rates are “significantly higher”.

READ MORE: Govt ‘never’ stopped worrying about Covid – Jacinda Ardern

“This is the group that hasn’t had much exposure in the first six months of this year to Covid because we have actually protected our vulnerable communities very well.

“This is a concern that this is potentially happening and we are starting to see higher rates in that older age group.”

Covid-19 vaccination centre in Auckland.
Covid-19 vaccination centre in Auckland. (Source: Getty)

As of Wednesday, the average age of those in hospital is 63. Of the 29 deaths announced on Wednesday, 28 were aged over 60 – one person was in their 60s, seven were in their 70s, 10 were in their 80s and 10 were aged over 90.

Betty said he is warning against Covid complacency over the coming months.

“Unfortunately, Covid’s still with us and New Zealand’s in a situation of being in the middle of winter when it is spreading, on top of an already pressured health system.”

Betty said health authorities need to make there are some protections in place to make sure the country functions for the rest of winter.

Ardern has said the Government still isn’t considering moving back to the Red traffic light setting. However, she has said there will be more information out on Thursday about “what we can do to focus even more” on isolation, masks and vaccinations.

1News understands the changes could make free rapid antigen tests and masks easier to access.

Although Betty said it is understandable people are fatigued and want to move on, there are three key things to keep in mind.

“Immunisation is still our number one protection against Covid, so if you haven’t been boosted, go and get boosted,” he said.

“Secondly, mask wearing voluntarily in indoor spaces is still a very good thing. It slows the spread of Covid, and thirdly if you are sick with maybe a cold or a flu or any of those symptoms, stay home, don’t spread it.

“I think those three things are fundamentally important to what we’re doing and we should try and keep a focus on those.”

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