A Peak Out of Auckland? + Other Covid Musings

At last, we have some cause for optimism out of Auckland’s interminable Covid outbreak. Knowing our luck, it might be a false dawn… but there are some signs that we have seen the peak:

As previously noted, the West Auckland trend of cases has reversed itself. Waitemata DHB has been on a noticeable downward trend for some time. Auckland DHB has been stagnating. The problem child is once again Counties-Manukau DHB (South Auckland)… but even there, there is now cause for optimism. The seven day rolling average for Counties-Manukau has finally started to decline, as has the average across the wider outbreak.

So yay…?

Now, with the epicentre of the outbreak firmly back in South Auckland, you would expect this to impact on the ethnic breakdown of the cases. Pacific Islanders in the South Auckland heartlands of Mangere and Otara outnumber Maori by a ratio of three to one. Instead, as previously alluded to, we have this:

I have mentioned previously that one of the oddities of this outbreak is that it really does not resemble the communities it is circulating within. That effect is getting ever more extreme over time.

Recall that there are very few places in Auckland where Maori outnumber Pacific Islanders by a ratio of two to one – and those places tend to have very few of either. Certainly nowhere in South Auckland. The declining Pakeha cases are in line with the decline in the Waitemata DHB – Pakeha cases were coming out of West (and North) Auckland, rather than South Auckland. And sure, Pacific Island cases are edging up, but nothing like what the demographics of South Auckland would suggest.

The best approximation for this is not geographic. It’s New Zealand’s prison population…

This is what I have long meant when I alluded to this outbreak seemingly being a wave through a very peculiar (and highly unvaccinated) subset of Auckland Maori. It’s also not really a subset that is likely to respond to public health measures, alas… but since it is a disproportionately young section of society (as in, 20-40 years old), these are not the people most at risk from dying from the disease. Apart from a leakage into the Edmonton Meadows Rest Home, there have been very few elderly cases, and overall very few deaths, at least in comparison to Melbourne and Sydney.

In fact, there is even a chance we can mine this particular lead further. It is worth noting that the leadership of New Zealand’s two biggest criminal gangs – the Mongrel Mob and Black Power – have been pretty energetic at encouraging vaccination among their members. These people are not nice – not nice at all – but one suspects they care about public relations to some degree. Instead, the big Covid Spreading Event outside Auckland? A recent gathering in the Wairarapa town of Masterton by the Killer Beez:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/300456397/covid19-confirmed-cases-linked-to-masterton-killer-beez-gang-gathering

Based off where these subsequent cases have been popping up in the North Island, it seems the Killer Beez are a surprisingly provincial lot, with connections in rural Taranaki and Waikato. I have also been informed anecdotally that, within the wider New Zealand gang scene, the Killer Beez are considered the sort of people too stupid for the other gangs – and that they require an act of rape to earn a gang patch. Charming. It’s also really, really unfortunate for the public health people who have to get contact information out of them.

(Anecdotally also… apparently the Killer Beez were chased out of Dunedin by the Mongrel Mob a few years ago, for giving local gang members a bad name. Which bizarrely might have wound up helping protect Dunedin from the spread of Covid).

In rounding off today’s Covid musings, it may interest you to know that the Auckland outbreak is really two outbreaks. At least in terms with the type of virus genome we are dealing with. The initial Pacific Island outbreak – spread via the unfortunate Church group – has been pretty much wiped out. The current cases, and certainly those spreading via Waikato and into the North Island rural areas… these ultimately came from the Birkdale Social Group, on Auckland’s North Shore.

In short, the current cases (gang or otherwise) did not catch this off the hapless Pacific Island community. They caught it from a particularly white and wealthy part of Auckland.

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