Aucklander shot and killed listed as a covid death

By Charles Coles

In 2020, when the government started to claim that people in New Zealand had died of covid-19, a few of us with questioning minds – who prefer to see cause of death determined by an autopsy and coroner’s court decision – wondered how those counting the covid deaths were so sure of their facts.

The coroner’s court faces a huge backlog of cases totalling 3,000 at last count, and it is currently taking an average of 455 days to close a coronial case.

Then there is the distinction of dying of covid-19 and dying with covid-19. It is a big difference. The difference is that dying of covid-19 means the person died as a direct result of having caught the virus. Dying ‘with’ covid-19 means one could have died of anything else while also being infected (the person could have been covid-19 asymptomatic having tested positive for the virus).

Just recently, a 40-year-old man shot and killed in Auckland – Robert Hart – was listed as a covid-19 death because he tested positive for the virus. The MoH says Hart is included in its covid-19 figures because of a change in the way the Ministry of Health reports on deaths.

This week, the Ministry of Health revealed what other illnesses the 32 people deemed to have died with covid-19 had. Nine had cardiovascular disease, five had chronic lung disease, seven had diabetes…and the list goes on. At the moment we can only speculate on what actually caused these people to die.

However, we all remember the screaming headlines and dramatic news broadcasts when anyone was deemed to have died with the virus in 2020 and all the frightening scenarios on what ‘could’ happen.

Remember the claims of thousands dying in New Zealand? Computer modelling done at the University of Auckland apparently showed that if 80 per cent of the population over the age of five is vaccinated 7000 people a year could still die from the virus and 60,000 could end up in hospital. In 2020, according to Stats NZ, more than 32,000 people died in New Zealand (all causes).

What we do know, is that many of those who were listed as a covid death (not all were tested for covid) were elderly, in poor health, and being cared for in some medical facility, care home, or other.

People listed as a ‘covid death’ and their pre-existing conditionsYesNo
Cardiovascular disease923
Chronic lung disease527
Diabetes725
Malignancy131
Neurological or neuromuscular disease428
Other underlying condition824
Renal failure230
The MoH says: Includes all cases that died who were classified as an active case of COVID-19 at the time of death. In some of these cases, the underlying cause of death may have been unrelated to COVID-19. Some of the people listed above may have experienced more than one comorbidity. Data: MoH. Graphic: The Buzz

A MoH spokesperson issued a statement saying: “On Wednesday (10 November 2021) the Ministry of Health made a change in the way we are publicly reporting deaths associated with covid-19 to improve timeliness and allow time for other health related factors to be considered.

“The Ministry’s clinical criteria for reporting a covid-19 death will continue to be guided by the World Health Organization’s definition for deaths due to covid-19.

“However, the Ministry will now report publicly on covid-19 deaths where it has been confirmed that the virus has contributed to or caused the death and will report other deaths where the cause of death is not certain but the person had acute COVID-19 as ‘under investigation’ until the medical reports accompanying the death have been assessed and the death formally confirmed as having died of, or with, covid-19. 

“Deaths being investigated by the Coroner will remain under investigation until the Coroner’s finding has been determined. The Ministry will report this information daily on its website.  This reflects that it can take some time for the Coroner to determine their findings.

“Work is also underway at the Ministry to look at how further information on those who have died with covid-19 can be reported such as comorbidities in a way that protects the private medical information of those involved.”