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At what point do Kiwis start doubting Government numbers?

In brief
  • What does it say about the story when the numbers are changed to suit?
  • There’s a lot of examples of the Government’s COVID numbers supporting the narrative, with the numbers then revised after the fact.
  • Is it just lucky incorrect numbers consistently fall on the side of helping the Government’s preferred narrative? 
  • Are voters awakening to the Government’s approach of “controlling the narrative, through controlling the data”? 

This is not questioning COVID policy, just numbers the Government revised themselves

We were just interested in official figures that have since been revised. It was easy to come up with three different examples on the COVID file so we went with it.

The unvaccinated number was materially wrong

Months after the fact the reported estimate of NZ’s COVID vaccine coverage was found to be overcounted, say only 90% when 95% had been used. 

At what point do Kiwis start doubting Government numbers? - Centrist
A small revision downwards in vaccination rate numbers effectively doubled the unvaccinated population. Image by Wiremu Stadtwald Demchick

Does that matter? In some ways not much (strong vaccine proponents may disagree), since 90% is quite high in the first place. However, the change meant the numbers of unvaccinated doubled from roughly 5% to 10% of the population eligible to receive a vaccine. The misleading data then exaggerated the risks to the unvaccinated. That’s because all the COVID affecting the unvaccinated was happening in a group with twice as many in it as was used in the calculation.  

For example, if 20% of hospitalisations were from the unvaccinated population, and there were only 5% unvaccinated, that would seem like the unvaccinated are 4 times as susceptible. However, if the unvaxxed are 10% of the population, then the chances of hospitalisation in this case drops to twice. That is a reduction of half from that one revision. And for some calculations, it could easily be the odds switch from favouring the vaccinated to favouring the unvaccinated. 

COVID deaths overcounted 

Suddenly, in 2022, the Government changed the way COVID deaths were counted. Instead of reporting numbers of deaths “with” COVID, it became “because of” or “from” COVID. The change was meant to narrow the scope of fatalities considered ‘COVID deaths’ to only those for whom COVID was an underlying cause. The number of deaths dropped from 1870 to 1252.

At the time, then chief medical officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield, assured the new counting method could be implemented within days. 

That was fortunate because during the same week international media soured on NZ’s COVID policy as reportedly COVID deaths were once again reaching “pandemic highs”.

A downward revision of COVID death numbers would have certainly been welcome by the Government seeking a more desirable narrative. 

Hospitalisations undercounted

Hospitalisation rates from the beginning of COVID were undercounted by 30% due to a “coding error”. But again, at a time when NZ’s Government could use relatively lower numbers to claim success for the “go hard and go early” strategy, it’s convenient the numbers were reported to be lower than they actually were. 

Voters should have an opinion on whether they are being played.

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