Photos: Naomii Seah; Getty Images

Live UpdatesJan 17 2022

Omicron’s arrival in the community a case of ‘when, not if’ says PM as she gets booster shot

  • The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has received her booster shot in front of media, saying details of preparation for omicron’s arrival in the community would be revealed soon.
  • There are 16 new Covid-19 cases in the community, and 42 have been detected at the border.
  • Children aged between five and 11 can now get vaccinated against Covid-19, but many vaccination sites are still waiting for Ministry of Health approval.
  • A New Zealand Defence Force plane has left for Tonga to assess the damage from Saturday’s volcanic eruption and tsunami.
  • The traffic light settings for New Zealand will be reviewed this week, as an MIQ worker is confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant of Covid-19.

 

Photos: Naomii Seah; Getty Images

Omicron’s arrival in the community a case of ‘when, not if’ says PM as she gets booster shot

  • The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has received her booster shot in front of media, saying details of preparation for omicron’s arrival in the community would be revealed soon.
  • There are 16 new Covid-19 cases in the community, and 42 have been detected at the border.
  • Children aged between five and 11 can now get vaccinated against Covid-19, but many vaccination sites are still waiting for Ministry of Health approval.
  • A New Zealand Defence Force plane has left for Tonga to assess the damage from Saturday’s volcanic eruption and tsunami.
  • The traffic light settings for New Zealand will be reviewed this week, as an MIQ worker is confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant of Covid-19.

 

Jan 17 2022

Traffic light settings announcement coming later in week

For anyone wondering why there wasn’t a 4pm media briefing today, the government’s initial plan to announce any changes to the traffic light settings this afternoon has been pushed back. You can now expect an announcement towards the end of the week.

 

Tamaki remanded in custody after alleged bail breach

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki has been remanded in custody until January 27 after allegedly breaching his bail conditions, reports Stuff.

Tamaki was arrested at his Auckland home this morning after allegedly breaching bail conditions by speaking at an anti-vaccine mandate rally in Christchurch earlier this month. He is already facing multiple charges of breaching the Covid-19 Public Health Order and breaching bail conditions after attending three demonstrations against vaccine mandates and lockdowns in the Auckland Domain.

He has pleaded not guilty to the existing charges and to being in breach of his bail conditions by attending and speaking at the Hagley Park “picnic” on January 8.

The 63-year-old appeared in Auckland District Court via video link this afternoon. Much of the hearing cannot be reported due to Bail Act restrictions, but Tamaki’s lawyer asked for his client to be released ahead of a breach-of-bail hearing on January 27. The police opposed bail and the judge remanded Tamaki in custody at Mt Eden corrections facility until the hearing date.

PM receives booster, says omicron’s arrival ‘matter of when, not if’

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern received her booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Tāmaki Vaccination Centre in St Johns, Auckland this afternoon, with media watching on. As she was jabbed, Ardern laughed that it was “just as easy as the first two”.  

Ardern’s public vaccination comes as booster bookings open online for those aged 18+ who have received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least four months ago. Today also marks the first day children aged five to 11 are able to receive their paediatric vaccine. 

Ardern was accompanied by Starship paediatrician Dr Jin Russell and associate health minister Peeni Henare; they were welcomed by representatives of local iwi Ngāti Whātua.

Speaking to media, Ardern said as of midday, 66,000 people had booked in for their booster.

She said it was good to hear of people lining up to get their booster before vaccination centres opened, adding “when we see extra demand we move very quickly to make sure we have extra support”. 

Ardern said cabinet would this week be meeting with health officials to discuss plans for the arrival of the omicron variety in the community – which she said was “a matter of when, not if”. She said New Zealand could learn from other countries’ experiences with the highly infectious variant. “It will mean altering some of the things we do around testing, isolation and contact tracing.” This new information will be shared with the public in the coming weeks.

She said the traffic light system was designed to “pick up the impact” from different variants such as omicron. “If we have omicron in the community, we would look to move into red settings as a way of trying to slow down the spread.” 

Chief executive of Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei Whai Maia, Rangimarie Hunia, commended Ardern on the booster rollout, calling for “Māori- and iwi-led solutions” to the pandemic, and emphasising that “we will do what we need to do to keep our people alive.”

Ardern further urged “all eligible New Zealanders” to take up the booster “as soon as possible”. 

Just 16 new cases of Covid-19 in the community, but 42 at the border

There are 16 new cases of Covid-19 in the community, spread across Auckland, Lakes, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa. One case has been detected on the West Coast, but it has been deemed historical, said the Ministry of Health in a statement.

Meanwhile, 42 cases of Covid-19 have been detected at the border.

Thirty people are in hospital with Covid-19, with most spread across North Shore, Auckland and Middlemore, plus one in Tauranga.

Update on omicron-positive MIQ worker in Auckland

All seven household contacts of the omicron-positive Auckland MIQ worker reported yesterday have returned one negative test result, said the ministry. They remain in isolation and will receive further tests.

Of the case’s 67 close contacts identified, 43 have already returned negative test results. The five close contacts previously identified in Taupō, who have all returned negative day five test results, have now been transferred to an MIQ facility in Waikato.

“Auckland Regional Public Health is continuing to work with MIQ staff to look for any possible routes of transmission between returnees at the Stamford Plaza and the MIQ worker. Additional testing is being arranged for MIQ staff at this facility,” said the ministry.”

Additional whole genome sequencing of other positive returnee cases at the Stamford Plaza is also being completed to provide further information for the source investigation.

A number of locations of interest were reported in connection with the worker yesterday, including two bus routes.

Speaking to media this afternoon, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said it was “very encouraging” that household contacts had so far tested negative, but a number of crucial test results were outstanding, particularly from those who took the same bus as the case. 

Community cases

Seven of today’s community cases are in Auckland, with six in Lakes, one in Hawke’s Bay – which was announced yesterday but is being formally added to the tally today – one in the Wairarapa and one on the West Coast. “Upon investigation this case has been deemed historical,” said the ministry of the West Coast case.

All six of the Lakes cases are in Rotorua, with three linked to previously reported cases, and the others yet to be linked. The case in south Wairarapa was already isolating when they tested positive. The greater Wellington region now has 13 active cases, including five in Wellington, three in the Hutt Valley and five in Wairarapa.

Waits for kids at vaccination centres 

On today’s rollout of vaccinations for five to 11-year-olds, the ministry said there had been strong demand, particularly in Auckland. “We want to thank those who have been waiting at vaccination centres or holding for the 0800 number for their patience.”

“It’s encouraging to see this strong start to the rollout and extra resources are being deployed to the busiest sites to reduce queues as much as possible,” said director general of health Ashley Bloomfield in the statement.

Covid-19 case update imminent

The Ministry of Health’s daily Covid-19 update is due to land at any moment. The number of new cases in the community and at the border will be announced, and there may be an update on the omicron-positive MIQ worker announced yesterday. We’ll have all the details here.

New Zealand Defence Force aircraft leaves for eruption-hit Tonga

A Royal New Zealand Air Force aircraft has left for Tonga to assess the damage caused by violent volcanic eruptions over the weekend as communications with the island kingdom remain strained.

The New Zealand Defence Force earlier this morning announced an Orion aircraft had departed from Auckland for Tonga, and on arrival would make an initial assessment of what help the country needed. New Zealand has pledged an initial $500,000 to help Tonga recover, and a naval vessel is on standby to help if necessary.

So far, no injuries or deaths have been confirmed, although a couple of people are reportedly missing. Concerns are also growing for at least 8,000 people in the Ha’apai group of islands closest to the undersea Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, which erupted Saturday evening.

New Zealand foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta told RNZ about 80% of power has been restored in the Tongan capital city, but internet connections remained disrupted. Tongan families in Aotearoa are finding it difficult to contact their loved ones as a subsea fibre-optic cable servicing Tonga is believed to have been severed as a result of the massive undersea volcanic eruption, 65km from the capital Nuku’alofa. Communication lines could stay strained for weeks.

The country has been left covered in ash – reminiscent of a “moonscape”, New Zealand acting high commissioner in Tonga Peter Lund told RNZ – and water supply has been contaminated.

Low-lying coastal areas were also hit by the eruption’s resultant tsunami waves, which were even felt in New Zealand – fishers in Northland’s Hokianga Harbour were forced to run for their lives early Sunday morning, according to Stuff. On the other side of the Pacific, two people in north Peru drowned as a result of the tsunami.

Brian Tamaki arrested for alleged bail breach

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki has been arrested again for breaching bail conditions by attending a protest in Christchurch.

Police officers arrested him at his Auckland home this morning and he has been taken to Mt Eden corrections facility, reports Stuff. He is due to appear in Auckland District Court by video link this afternoon.

Tamaki is already facing multiple charges of breaching the Covid-19 Public Health Order and his bail conditions after attending three demonstrations against vaccine mandates and lockdowns in the Auckland Domain.

In November last year, a judge warned Tamaki that he would be remanded in custody if he breached his bail conditions again.

Five to 11-year-olds can now get vaccinated – but many pharmacies and GPs still waiting for approval

Children under the age of 12 can now get their Covid-19 vaccine, but parents hoping to walk in to get their kids jabbed today might be out of luck.

The Book My Vaccine site has not been taking bookings for five to 11-year-olds in advance, so many parents planned to head to walk-in sites today. But many sites, despite being ready to go, are still waiting for Ministry of Health approval.

Auckland pharmacy owner Clair Connor this morning told RNZ she was still waiting for the Ministry of Health to approve three of her vaccination sites. “We are ready to go but sadly we are not yet approved by the Ministry of Health,” she said.

“The process has been very squashed into the timeframe of a week to get organised. My suggestion is to check online to see what sites are open and try to be patient because I’m sure today we’re going to be turning away people.”

One Auckland parent hoping to get her three children vaccinated today has spent an hour this morning calling pharmacies and medical centres, but all were still waiting for approval. One North Shore pharmacist she spoke said people were queuing out the door at 8am, but she was going to have to turn them away. “It’s ridiculous – there’s no urgency whatsoever,” said the parent.

A Wellington parent who had secured a booking by phone for her neurodivergent son this morning said appointments were running at least an hour late. She had booked a low-sensory appointment, so was waiting in a private room with her son, but has now been told by a worker that kids with autism shouldn’t be at vaccination centres, and she should instead go to her GP.

An Auckland parent with a neurodivergent child has been unable to get an appointment for her son until late next week, while a Dunedin parent has been able to secure one until the end of the month. With school returning in a couple of weeks and a case of omicron in the community confirmed yesterday, many parents are keen to get their children immunised as quickly as possible.