If New Zealand had not responded to Covid-19 the way it did back in March, the nation's death toll would have been in the thousands by now and 20 per cent of those deaths would have been healthcare workers, Dr Ashley Bloomfield has predicted.
That would have meant 700 health professionals, including those in aged residential care facilities, could have lost their lives in just six months.
The Director-General of Health revealed the sobering estimate during a Facebook Q+A session on Sunday as he tried to spell out just how serious the pandemic could have been in New Zealand.
“If we were the United Kingdom, if you look at our population base now, and if we followed the route that Britain had followed we would have had 3500 deaths from Covid-19 by now.
“And just to put that in context, in New Zealand in any one year there is only about 25,000 deaths, so that would have been a significant impact.
“And not only that, and this is an important point, 20 per cent of those deaths would have been amongst healthcare workers."
Bloomfield said heading into lockdown early prevented not only thousands of deaths but it also protected the healthcare system.
“This is not just another virus. We’ve already seen that it’s ten times more deadly than the influenza virus that circulates in the community every year.
“This is a serious infection.”
In mid-June the total number of healthcare workers in New Zealand who tested positive with Covid-19 was 167.
“Ninety-six were likely to have been infected in the workplace,” a Ministry of Health spokesperson told 1 NEWS.
“It is important to note that not all healthcare workers contracted the virus at their workplace or in a health care setting.”
The Ministry says currently six people with Covid-19 connected to the Auckland cluster are healthcare workers.
The most recent case was a healthcare worker from an Auckland quarantine facility who tested positive on the weekend.
A genomic link to three confirmed cases at the facility has been established.
Back in August, a Tokoroa healthcare worker tested positive for Covid-19. That person was linked to the Auckland cluster.