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Research Shows New Zealand Had 4% Excess Mortality in First Three Years of COVID-19 Pandemic

Sunday 25 February 2024, 2:39AM

By Expert Briefing

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A new study by John Gibson of the University of Waikato's Department of Economics finds that New Zealand had roughly four percent cumulative excess mortality in the first three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, equivalent to approximately 4,000 excess deaths.

This contradicts previous estimates that suggested negative cumulative excess mortality in the country.

The study criticizes the use of projection-based measures of excess deaths, which ignore changes in population growth rates.

Gibson argues that these measures poorly suit the New Zealand context, as they extrapolate pre-COVID trends without accounting for the sharp fall in population growth rates after the border was closed in March 2020.

Instead, Gibson suggests including population as a predictor in excess mortality projections. This approach shows that cumulative excess deaths for New Zealand had already moved into positive territory by mid-2022.

Gibson also notes disciplinary differences in research culture, suggesting that economists' focus on robustness tests and sensitivity analyses could have led to earlier identification of flaws in the projection-based approach.

He argues that promoting a contest of ideas from different disciplines is especially important in New Zealand, where policy making and implementation is more monolithic than in countries with checks and balances.