blog dec 14


Omicron case confirmed in Palmerston North

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 21, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. A huge thank you to my colleagues who looked after the updates in my absence this week. Need to get in touch? You can reach me on

Today’s headlines

  • A case of Covid-19 reported yesterday in Palmerston North has been confirmed as the omicron variant. A number of locations of interest have been published.
  • A possible new omicron case has been detected in Auckland. The individual works at the airport but is not linked to previous cases of the variant in the city.
  • There are 23 new community cases of Covid-19 (the tail end of the delta outbreak) with 44 new border cases (most likely omicron).
blog dec 14

Omicron case confirmed in Palmerston North

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 21, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. A huge thank you to my colleagues who looked after the updates in my absence this week. Need to get in touch? You can reach me on

Today’s headlines

  • A case of Covid-19 reported yesterday in Palmerston North has been confirmed as the omicron variant. A number of locations of interest have been published.
  • A possible new omicron case has been detected in Auckland. The individual works at the airport but is not linked to previous cases of the variant in the city.
  • There are 23 new community cases of Covid-19 (the tail end of the delta outbreak) with 44 new border cases (most likely omicron).
Jan 21 2022

New political poll shows slight bump for main parties

The first political poll of 2022 shows little has changed over the summer period, although both main parties received small bumps.

Labour is up 1.7% to 41.2% in the new Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll, while National has risen 0.4% to 33%. National jumped significantly in the poll when Christopher Luxon ousted Judith Collins, although it came at the expense of potential coalition partner Act. The David Seymour-led party now sits on 11.5%, still ranked third overall, and up 0.9% from the last poll.

The Greens are down 0.2% to 10.7%, while the Māori Party plunges 2.5% down to near zero on just 0.5%. New Zealand First sits slightly above that on 0.9%, a result that would see the party remain outside parliament for a second term.

Today’s community case details: Nelson household of nine tests positive

In addition to all the new omicron news (see the last few updates), there are a handful of new community cases – most likely just the tail end of our delta outbreak.

There are 23 new community cases in the official tally, although eight new Nelson cases will also be included in tomorrow’s count.

The details

There are nine new cases to report in the Nelson Tasman region. All of the cases live in the same household. Eight of these cases were notified after the ministry’s reporting deadline, and will be added to the official tally tomorrow.

“Public health officials are investigating recent travel to Auckland as the source of their infections,” said the ministry.

There are 11 new cases to report in Auckland. Health and welfare providers are now supporting 712 people in the region to isolate at home, including 147 cases.

There is one new case in Waikato, a person in Hamilton. Health officials are investigating any links to previous cases.

There are eight new cases in the Lakes DHB region – all are in the Rotorua area. Seven are linked to previously reported cases and one case is still being investigated to determine any links. All cases are isolating at home or in managed accommodation.

Finally, there are three new cases in Hawke’s Bay, one of which was notified after the Ministry’s cut off and will be officially added to tomorrow’s case numbers.

Possible new omicron case in Auckland

An Auckland Airport worker not linked to any previously reported omicron cases may have contracted the variant.

The worker’s infection was detected in a routine surveillance test taken on January 18 and a positive result was returned yesterday.

Whole genome sequencing is underway to determine the variant, though as a prudent measure, the Ministry of Health said it is being treated as an omicron case. Investigations are underway to determine the source of infection.

“Testing of both household and workplace close contacts is underway,” said the ministry. “To date, one household member has returned a positive result and one has tested negative.”

The case is considered to be infectious from January 16. Initial locations of interest are expected to be published today.

Isolation periods extended in response to omicron

The self-isolation period for cases of Covid-19 has been extended up to 14 days after a case of omicron was confirmed in Palmerston North.

All close contacts will now isolate for ten days as opposed to the previous seven. These changes take effect from today.

“Isolation periods for cases and close contacts remain under review and are planned to change as part of the response to an omicron community outbreak,” said the Ministry of Health.

Confirmed: Omicron case in Palmerston North

A case of Covid-19 detected yesterday in Palmerston North has been confirmed as the highly transmissible omicron variant.

In its 1.30pm statement, the Ministry of Health said whole genome sequencing returned a positive result for the omicron strain. The case became symptomatic on Wednesday and returned a positive Covid-19 test result on Wednesday evening.

“Whole genome sequencing has identified similarities to border cases identified in Auckland, but no direct links,” said the ministry. “It has not identified any links to cases in the Christchurch MIQ facility, suggesting that the source of infection is offshore – either in the country they travelled from or during travel to New Zealand – rather than transmission in the Christchurch MIQ facility where they stayed.”

This case was released on Sunday after returning a negative test result on five occasions throughout their stay.

They then travelled on flight NZ550 from Christchurch to Auckland departing at 2pm arriving into Auckland at 3.20pm. They then travelled on NZ5121 from Auckland to Palmerston North departing Auckland at 4.55pm. “The case is considered to be infectious from Monday 17 January, however if you travelled on either of these flights, as a precautionary measure, you are asked to get a test as soon as possible,” said the ministry.

An additional 23 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the community (the tail end of the delta outbreak) while 44 new cases have been detected at the border.

On the vaccine front: there were 37,967 boosters administered yesterday, bringing the total to 903,464, which is 54% of the eligible population. There were a total of 11,762 first doses of the paediatric Pfizer vaccine administered yesterday to 5 to 11-year-olds, bringing the total 51,639.

Has omicron made it to Palmerston North? Ministry to update imminently

We’re soon expecting confirmation of whether a Covid-19 case detected in Palmerston North is a case of the omicron strain of the virus.

The case, announced yesterday, included several high risk locations of interest in the Manawatū.

I’m standing by for the latest and will have all the details momentarily.

Wallace and Gromit to return in new Netflix film

The first image from the new sequel (Image / Supplied)

Netflix has announced a new partnership with animation company Aardman, the production company behind the likes of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run.

As a result, both of those iconic animated franchises will be getting new feature films on the streaming service.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, starring Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi, will hit Netflix next year and pick up straight after the events of the original film released in 2000. Newton and Levi replace the original lead voices Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson.

chicken run 2
The first image from the new sequel (Image / Supplied)

A currently unnamed Wallace and Gromit film will debut the following year.

Auckland DHBs brace for 1800 omicron cases a day

If omicron breaks into the Auckland community at the start of February, cases will hit a peak of 1500 to 1800 a day within four weeks, before falling to 150 to 330 per day from May, according to district health board modelling.

The projections, prepared by Counties Manukau DHB’s director of population health Dr Gary Jackson, show the city will also face 175 to 190 hospitalisations on any given day at the outbreak’s height, with at least 10 to 20 cases requiring intensive care on any given day.

But based on overseas data, Jackson says there will be 50% less death from the omicron variant, compared with delta.

“People are describing omicron as a mild illness – if you’re vaccinated and boosted, but if you’re unvaccinated, you’ve still got the potential to be hit quite hard.”

But Jackson says the avalanche of cases isn’t an overly daunting prospect for the DHB’s staff, who have been at the forefront of previous outbreaks.

“We know it’s coming, but we’re prepared for it, and I don’t think it’s going to overwhelm us,” he says. “We’ve got the contingency plans for it, we’ve gone through it, like we did in October and November, and we can see how we’ve coped and we’ve developed some really good systems.”

For more: Read Justin Latif’s report here

Auckland restaurant patrons advised to self-isolate

New locations of interest have been released, with one presumed linked to a case of omicron.

A New World supermarket in Palmerston North was visited by an expected case of the highly transmissible variant on Wednesday, with anyone exposed told to monitor for symptoms.

Meanwhile, visitors to the Genghis Khan restaurant in Auckland’s Henderson on Monday night are asked to self-isolate immediately and get tested for Covid-19.

More available here

Two trailers you might have missed this week

It’s been a big week for major television projects which are tangentially connected to New Zealand.

First up, a teaser trailer and the official title were released for the locally-shot Lord of the Rings series. Backed by Amazon, the first season is set to release in early September and has officially been given the slightly meaningless subtitle “The Rings of Power”.

While this teaser may be short, the visuals, dialogue and music already seem tightly linked to the world created by Peter Jackson 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, the first trailer for upcoming HBO pirate comedy series Our Flag Means Death – starring Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi – also dropped this week. Waititi makes a fleeting appearance in the trailer as the villainous pirate Blackbeard, while Darby takes on the lead role.

‘Bloody ridiculous’: Harawira unhappy with Northland’s move to orange

Northland has woken up to eased Covid-19 restrictions today as the region shifts to the orange setting after seven weeks at red.

But the move has been met with a mixed response from groups in the region. Tai Tokerau Border Control’s head Hone Harawira told RNZ that moving to orange was “bloody ridiculous”.

“[It] is not supported by either the iwi or health authorities in Northland,” he said. “If you get delta in the home by the end of two or three days there might be just the one person who has still got it, you get omicron within the home within 24 hours the whole household can have it.”

Māori in the region were five times more likely to get Covid-19, claimed Harawira, and omicron could be worse.

In contrast, the region’s hospitality representatives said moving out of the red was long overdue. “It’s about time we moved into orange, with the rest of New Zealand, because there’s no doubt our staying in red has deterred a lot of visitors,” said Hospitality New Zealand Northland president John Maurice.

“Subsequently, the region’s hospitality and accommodations providers have suffered as a result. So it’s excellent news.”

Luxon rubbishes omicron plan, says government ‘wasted’ summer

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The National Party has reiterated its concerns around preparations for the arrival of omicron. The party yesterday released a scathing statement as the government revealed how it would try slow the spread of the new Covid-19 variant.

Today, National’s leader Christopher Luxon told Newstalk ZB the government had “wasted” summer by not planning for an outbreak. “We need tens of millions of these [rapid antigen] tests,” Luxon said.

The continued use of the traffic light framework was confusing, added Luxon. Yesterday it was revealed the entire country would move into the “red” setting within 24 to 48 hours of an omicron outbreak. “You need a risk management system…and it’s just not there yet,” said Luxon.

On RNZ, Luxon added that he found the justification moving between different colours very confusing. “We’re supposed to be in red when our healthcare system is under unsustainable pressure,” he said. “So what’s the justification, what’s the criteria, what’s the logic behind the move up or down or through colours – that’s not well defined.”

Luxon also repeated his party’s call for more intensive care units. “We know [omicron] is more transmissible… we need to have ICU capacity as a back-up,” he said.

Looming omicron outbreak could see 1800 to 10,000 daily cases

Covid-19 tests being prepared for analysis in the laboratory at Whiston Hospital in Merseyside, England (Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

An outbreak of the omicron variant could see daily Covid-19 cases reach between 1,800 and 10,000 across the country.

New modelling, reported on by the NZ Herald, shows what could quickly become reality when the highly transmissible strain of the virus inevitably enters the community.

Dr Gary Jackson has predicted that the outbreak’s daily case peak will be 10 times that of during delta, or almost 2000 every day. But, while the infection rate was likely to be high, Jackson said hospitalisations will not surge quite so high.

“While we are finding it to be more infectious it appears to stay in the upper airway, so behaving more like a cold than pneumonia,” he said. “Majority of people appear to have it much milder, but it is still a bell curve and people at the extremes, and especially the unvaccinated, will still get very sick.”

Meanwhile, Covid-19 modeller Michael Plank said a national outbreak could see as many as 10,000 daily cases – if not more.