118 days ago

Covid-19: Older, vulnerable Kiwis urged to ‘hunker down’ when Omicron cases peak

Nicole Mathewson Reporter from The Press

From reporter Cate Broughton:
Older and vulnerable people are being encouraged to “hunker down” in their homes during the peak of the Omicron virus, by some health experts – but others say this isn’t necessary.

New Zealand epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely is based at Melbourne University and says he encouraged his nearly 80-year-old parents – who live in Rotorua – to stay at home when Omicron cases climb and the virus becomes endemic.

However, Cancer Society medical director Kate Gregory said there was not enough evidence to support giving this advice to cancer patients.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed there was community transmission of the Omicron variant in New Zealand.

The Ministry of Health on Monday reported confirmed Omicron cases in the Nelson-Tasman region, Auckland and Palmerston North.

Blakely said he talked to his parents about continuing their usual activities while using a N95 mask, but “hunkering down” when cases climbed.

“You probably do that for another 10 days until case numbers start to go up in Rotorua, and then you really hunker down. So that’s what we’ve talked about.”

Blakely said “the maths of an epidemic” meant up to half of the population was likely to get infected with Omicron.

“The trick is to make sure the people who get infected are the young ones. So you accept that. You accept there will be hospitalisations associated with that.

But to minimise the hospitalisations, the mortality and morbidity – a bit like trench warfare – you send over the young ones, and you hunker down the oldies and those with co-morbidities.”

Blakely said his parents, who are double vaccinated and have had their booster, had already decided to stay at home when cases climbed.

But he said it was hard to say how long this period should last.

New Zealand’s traffic light setting of red – the highest level of restrictions under the traffic light system –would help to slow the spread of Omicron, and protect essential services from being overwhelmed, but this would also mean the peak of the virus would last longer, Blakely said.

“Here’s the deep irony, the better New Zealanders are at flattening the curve, the longer the hunker down will be.”

Blakely acknowledged prolonged periods of isolation for the elderly and vulnerable could have significant mental health impacts.

In Australia, Omicron has taken a huge toll on the aged-care sector with hundreds of outbreaks in aged care homes. But some families have said the lockdowns were overly cautious and too hard on the elderly residents, most of whom were fully vaccinated.

Wellington GP and Royal New Zealand College of General Practice (RNZCGPs) medical director Bryan Betty said the Australian experience of Omicron showed it could peak for as long as four to six weeks.

Betty said most people – including fit older people – would experience a mild to moderate illness, if infected.

“However, the caveat on this is ... we know the biggest risk factor for a poorer outcome from Covid is age, the elderly population in particular are vulnerable to a poorer outcome with Covid.”

Betty said it would be good for older people to consider staying home, with some support from friends and family, “as the case numbers rise” in the community.

Cancer Society medical director Kate Gregory said there was not enough evidence to date to support advising patients to stay home, but this could change “if we see much higher numbers”.

“If, in a week’s time we are seeing thousands and thousands of cases we may be advising people differently. I think the reassuring thing we’ve seen is that Omicron doesn’t seem to cause such severe disease and we know the vaccine provides very good protection.”

Gregory said for cancer patients the best defence is to be vaccinated and for the people in their households to be vaccinated.”

She said in her experience a “vast majority” of cancer patients had received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, many with a third primary dose.

“It’s a frightening time, and especially for those who are more vulnerable.

"I think as long as people have the vaccine, wear the mask, do the hand-washing and get tested promptly, I think that’s probably fine. At the moment, that’s the advice we’re giving our patients.”

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7 days ago

Trust a farmer to give us their opinion.

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The new range of Line7 performance workwear has been designed, developed and tested by you – New Zealand farmers. We asked, listened, and collaborated directly with farmers in the making of this gear. We tested and re-tested in on-farm environments. We re-engineered what farming workwear can be with your needs front of mind.

We brought our decades of experience creating world-class performance gear. Add to that a legacy of Kiwi innovation, a challenger spirit and a practical attitude that’s been part of Line 7 since we started back in 1963.

Every detail has been reviewed and refined – without overlooking the obvious. Breathable, flexible, functional and comfortable, while still being supremely durable and waterproof. Made to fit farmers of all shapes and sizes, with a dedicated range for women. Built to last, and last a bit longer still, with an included repair kit that means you can fix it up quickly yourself.

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10 days ago

Queenstown and Wānaka house sale prices tumble - but no trend yet

Nicole Mathewson Reporter from Otago News

From reporter Debbie Jamieson:

Queenstown median house prices have dipped below $1 million for the first time in 18 months.

Real Estate Institute figures for April show a 22.1% decrease from the same month last year, from $1.22m to $950,000 for the tourist town.

The last time it dipped below $1m was in August 2020, and the median price has regularly been in seven figures since 2018.

There was an even larger drop in Wānaka, where the median price dropped 43.3% to $635,000, largely due to sales of townhouses at the Riverside Residence development.

Of the 58 sales in Wānaka this April, 24 were townhouse purchases from Riverside Residence between $400,000 and $700,000, according to a report from the institute.

The median price excluding these sales would have been $1.115m.

There are 62 units within Riverside Residence, many of which are sold for short-term accommodation only.

Real Estate Institute Otago/Southland spokesperson Liz Nidd said the market across the country had been affected by Covid-19 and recent school holidays.

“There is a rationalisation of the market happening, but it’s too early to panic,” she said.

The report says owner-occupiers were the most active buyers in the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes regions, although finance was challenging for many purchasers.

First home buyers in the region were scarce due to tightened lending conditions, loan to value ratios and rising interest rates.

“Anecdotally, unless first home buyers have support from the bank of mum and dad, they tend to be priced out of all but the outer suburbs,” Nidd said.

The 25 apartments are among the first of up to 4000 Housing Minister Megan Woods hopes will go through the $400m Progressive Home Ownership scheme.

Queenstown Community Housing Trust executive officer Julie Scott said even with the drop in sales prices, homes in the region remained far out of reach for low and middle income households.

“This makes absolutely no difference,” she said.

The trust has almost 800 households on its waiting list.

The institute’s report says investors had also stepped back from the market due to new tax legislation, despite rents increasing.

A lack of rental properties was making it difficult for prospective tenants.

Nationally, house sales nationwide tumbled by 29.3% between March and April, highlighting the ongoing slowdown of the market, the institute said.

Its latest figures showed there were just 4860 sales around the country in April. That was down 35.2% from the 7497 sales at the same time last year.

In Queenstown, sales decreased by 10.9%.

Agents said “fear of missing out” was replaced with a “fear of overpaying”.

“With fewer buyers in the market, there is less competition, not as much urgency and vendors have become more realistic in their expectations.”

Agents were hopeful that the Central Otago/Lakes region might see some more overseas buyers now that borders are open but are also aware that some Kiwis will leave New Zealand after two years of Covid-19.