Photos: Getty Images

Live UpdatesDec 22 2021

56 new Covid-19 cases in the community, including one in Hutt Valley; six new omicron arrivals

A note about live updates:

As we wind down for Christmas, The Spinoff’s regular live updates have ended for the year. But the team will continue to cover major breaking news here, including all the latest on Covid in New Zealand. Regular live updates will return in mid-January.

 

Photos: Getty Images

56 new Covid-19 cases in the community, including one in Hutt Valley; six new omicron arrivals

A note about live updates:

As we wind down for Christmas, The Spinoff’s regular live updates have ended for the year. But the team will continue to cover major breaking news here, including all the latest on Covid in New Zealand. Regular live updates will return in mid-January.

 

Dec 22 2021

The shape of the outbreak

There are 51 people in hospital with Covid-19 today, including seven in ICU.

56 new Covid-19 cases in the community, including one in Hutt Valley; six new omicron arrivals

There are 56 new cases of Covid-19 in the community, across Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes and the Wellington region, the Ministry of Health has announced.

The Wellington case is located in the Hutt Valley, and a link has been established to the Lakes DHB area.

The case is self-isolating, and case interviews have identified a small number of household contacts, who are also isolating with testing arranged.

Case investigations have determined five initial locations of interest, which have been added to the ministry’s website.

The ministry is also asking anyone in the Hutt Valley area with symptoms – no matter how mild – to please get tested, even if they are vaccinated, and remain isolated until they return a negative test result. Local testing sites can be found on the Healthpoint website.

Six new omicron arrivals

Between the first omicron case being reported to the World Health Organization on November 24 to December 20 (the latest data available), 11,014 returnees to New Zealand have been through managed isolation at the border. Of those, 1,877 returnees have gone through managed isolation since whole genome sequencing first identified omicron at the New Zealand border on 16 December.

Since December 1, 45 Covid-19 cases have been detected at the New Zealand border, with 28 of those with omicron.

Health and MIQ teams have been carefully planning for omicron cases at the border and will continue to manage all arrivals cautiously. This includes isolation and testing requirements for all new arrivals, robust infection and prevention control and PPE measures at airports and MIQ facilities, and frequent surveillance testing of staff who have any contact with recent international returnees.

Unexpected wastewater detections 

A wastewater sample collected from Hutt Valley on December 20 detected the Covid-19 virus, which is not unexpected given the case reported today, self-isolating in the area.

A separate wastewater detection was from a sample collected from Napier on December 20. This is the third, consecutive positive wastewater result from Napier in the past week, which may be due to undetected community transmission or a recently recovered case returning to the region shedding the virus.

There was an unexpected wastewater detection in Whitianga on December 20, which may be due to undetected community transmission or a recently recovered case returning to the region shedding the virus, but is no longer infectious.

There also was an unexpected wastewater detection in Dargaville on December 20, following a previous positive detection on December 7.

Covid-19 continues to be detected in wastewater samples collected in Gisborne, with the latest detection on December 20.

Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes and Taranaki

Today, there are 33 new cases being reported in Auckland. Health and welfare providers are now supporting 1,941 people to isolate at home, including 590 cases.

There are six cases to report in Waikato today; three in Te Kūiti, two in Tokoroa and one who usually resides outside the Waikato and is isolating in Te Kūiti. There are 10 pop-up and dedicated testing sites operating throughout Waikato today with sites in Hamilton, Te Kūiti, Tokoroa, Putāruru, Taumarunui, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia and Ōtorohanga. Health and welfare providers are supporting 54 cases to isolate at home

There are 11 cases to report in the Bay of Plenty today. Of today’s cases, 10 are in Tauranga area and one in Murupara. Ten of today’s cases, including the new case in Murupara, are linked to previously reported cases, and one is still being investigated for potential links. All cases are isolating at home.

In Murapara, local iwi health provider Te Ika Whenua Hauora is managing testing and vaccination with support from the DHB. A testing centre has been opened and details are available on the Healthpoint website.

There are four cases to report in the Lakes DHB area today, including three in Rotorua and one in Taupō. All four cases remain under investigation for links to previously reported cases. All cases are isolating at home.

One new case is being reported in New Plymouth, which is linked to a previously reported case in New Plymouth. The case is isolating at home. Local testing sites can be found on the Taranaki DHB website.

MIQ absconder update

The recent returnee who self-discharged from Middlemore Hospital on Monday along with their child has voluntarily returned to the facility where they are completing their managed isolation.

The child, who had been taken to Middlemore with their parent as they were too young to be left unattended in managed isolation, has also returned. They returned to the MIQ facility last night and have seven days of their isolation still to complete.

Further tests have been carried out on both the parent and child.

Police will make inquiries into the incident to see if any further action is required.

Hospitalisations

  • Cases in hospital: 51; North Shore: 6; Auckland: 21; Middlemore: 21; Waikato: 2; Tauranga: 1
  • Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only): Unvaccinated or not eligible (23 cases / 49%); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (5 cases / 11%); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (10 cases/ 21%); unknown (9 case / 19%)
  • Average age of current hospitalisations: 50
  • Cases in ICU or HDU: 7 (1 in North Shore; 2 in Auckland; 4 in Middlemore)

Testing

  • Number of tests total (last 24 hours): 22,223
  • Tests rolling average (last 7 days): 19,816
  • Auckland tests total (last 24 hours): 8,858

Vaccination

There were 20,328 total vaccine doses administered yesterday, including 1,860 first doses and 6,273 second doses. To date, 94% of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 90% are double-dosed.

South Canterbury DHB is expected to become the 11th DHB to hit the 90% fully vaccinated milestone later today based on uptake among its eligible population, with just 59 doses to go as of 11.59pm yesterday.

Next in line based on uptake by their eligible populations are Hawke’s Bay DHB (1,308 doses); and Waikato (2,866 doses).

Boosters and kids

The booster gap reduction announced yesterday comes into effect for walk-in vaccinations from January 5, and bookings can be made on BookMyVaccine.nz from January 17.

Parents and caregivers will be able to book vaccinations for 5 to 110year-olds from January 17.

Limit arrivals or risk swamping MIQ with omicron, says Baker

The omicron variant of Covid-19 may “swamp” MIQ unless the number of overseas arrivals is cut, Otago University public health professor Michael Baker has warned.

The government on Tuesday announced a raft of measures to hold off the highly contagious variant, including pushing the border reopening out to the end of February, lengthening MIQ stays to 10 days and shortening pre-departure tests to 48 hours from 72.

Baker told RNZ that limiting or even halting arrivals from certain high-risk countries should also be considered as the possibility of 10-20 arrivals a day would “just swamp our MIQ system, so we’ve got to do something to turn that tap down”. Decisions to limit travellers from certain countries should be based purely on how many cases the system could handle.

GeoHealth Laboratory’s Dr Matthew Hobbs echoed Baker’s comments, saying it would be sensible for the government to consider the measure as an “extra layer of protection” to get the country through summer.

New Zealanders abroad disappointed with border reopening delay

Among the other measures, the border reopening delay has given New Zealanders abroad another roadblock in their efforts to return home.

New Zealand citizen Susan Thomas and her husband, who live in Western Australia, told RNZ their return to Aotearoa from mid-January is organised. But the change in government policy has meant the pair must now secure a MIQ spot to ensure their plans aren’t scuttled.

Alexandra Birt, a spokesperson for Grounded Kiwis, a network of overseas New Zealanders wanting MIQ changed, said not all arrivals posed the same risk of carrying omicron and the one-size-fits-all approach was unreasonable.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins yesterday acknowledged the change wouldn’t be “welcome news”, and said the government would work with airlines to rejig MIQ spaces for those booked on flights from Australia from mid-January.

Air New Zealand cancelled about 120 flights affecting some 27,000 passengers, after the government’s announcement, and a limited schedule of quarantine flights will be available for booking.

Tuesday’s scheduled MIQ room release was also scrapped, with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment saying the next release of spaces would occur on January 6, 2022.

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