updatesjan23

Live UpdatesJan 23 2022

Omicron arrives in community, all of NZ moving to ‘red’

  • All of New Zealand will move to the red setting of the traffic light framework at 11.59pm tonight.
  • Ten Nelson cases, from one household, have been confirmed as having the omicron variant. Those eligible were fully vaccinated. Two others, including an Air New Zealand worker, have also tested positive.
  • The family of 10 all travelled to Auckland last weekend where they attended a large wedding and other events.
  • There is no clear lead on the index case who links this group to the border, which means omicron is circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region, if not elsewhere.
  • Get boosted as soon as you’re eligible, as this is the best strategy for slowing omicron’s spread, said the prime minister.
updatesjan23

Omicron arrives in community, all of NZ moving to ‘red’

  • All of New Zealand will move to the red setting of the traffic light framework at 11.59pm tonight.
  • Ten Nelson cases, from one household, have been confirmed as having the omicron variant. Those eligible were fully vaccinated. Two others, including an Air New Zealand worker, have also tested positive.
  • The family of 10 all travelled to Auckland last weekend where they attended a large wedding and other events.
  • There is no clear lead on the index case who links this group to the border, which means omicron is circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region, if not elsewhere.
  • Get boosted as soon as you’re eligible, as this is the best strategy for slowing omicron’s spread, said the prime minister.
Jan 23 2022

Support announced for workers who have to isolate

Finance minister Grant Robertson has announced support available for businesses and workers who can’t work due to the omicron outbreak.

The initial focus will be on supporting those who aren’t able to be at work because they’re infected or a close contact, he said. The leave support scheme will be available to businesses and self-employed people and is set at the same rates as the wage subsidy – $600 a week for full-time workers and $359 for part-time workers. There’s also a short-term absence payment of $359 per eligible worker.

Full details are on the MSD website.

Move to red means PM’s wedding not going ahead

Jacinda Ardern has confirmed her wedding to partner Clarke Gayford will not be able to go ahead because of the nationwide move to the red setting.

“I join many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic,” she said. “To anyone who’s caught up in that scenario, I’m so sorry.”

Asked how she was feeling about it, she said, “Such is life. I am no different to thousands of other other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts as a result of the pandemic. That will far outstrip any sadness I experience.”

Plan to be at red for ‘some weeks’; a reminder of what red means

The prime minister said New Zealanders should “plan to be at red for some weeks”.

Here’s a reminder of what the red setting means:

  • If vaccine passes are used, gatherings are limited to 100 people. In public settings, 1m distancing is required. If vaccine passes are not used, the limit for gatherings is 25.
  • The 100-person, 1m-distancing requirement applies to hospitality venues as well, where customers must be seated and separated.
  • Workplaces can open. If it is appropriate for your job, you can work from home.
  • As at orange, face coverings are required on flights and public transport, in retail settings and public venues. Workers at food and drink businesses, close-contact businesses and events must wear face coverings. Masks are encouraged whenever you leave your home.
  • Schools and ECE can open. Teachers and support staff must wear masks, as must children Year 4 and above.

Ten Nelson cases confirmed as omicron plus two more, NZ to move to red

A family of 10 from the Nelson region who flew to Auckland on the weekend of January 15-16 to attend a wedding and other events have been confirmed as having the omicron variant of Covid-19, the prime minister has announced.

A fully vaccinated flight attendant who worked the flight they took from Auckland to Nelson is also infected with omicron, as is one other person who was at the wedding. Those who were eligible among the cases were vaccinated, said Jacinda Ardern.

There were well over 100 people at the events the people attended, said Ardern at an unscheduled press conference this morning.

There is no clear lead on the index case who links this group to the border, she said, which means omicron is circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region, if not elsewhere.

For this reason, the entire country will move to the red setting at 11.59pm tonight.

“Our strategy is to slow the spread of omicron,” said Ardern. “This includes boosters and public health measures such as mask wearing and restrictions on gatherings. Our plan for managing omicron cases in the early stages remains the same as delta – rapidly testing, contact tracing and isolating in order to slow the spread.”

Due to the low numbers of delta cases currently, there is significant capacity in the system to stamp out outbreaks, said Ardern, and public health teams are already hard at work to contain this one.

But because omicron is so much more infectious, in due course we will see far more cases than we have in the pandemic to date.

Ardern urged people to get their booster vaccine as soon as they’re eligible. So far, 56% of those eligible have had theirs.

Red is not lockdown, Ardern said, with businesses able to open but with gathering limits and mask wearing rules in place.

“It is our intention for schools to return as planned,” said Ardern.

She encouraged everyone to use the coming days to make a plan. She urged people to find a “buddy” who lived nearby who may be able to help with supplies.

The staged approach to omicron

The plan to tackle omicron has three stages, says Ardern.

Stage one is up to 1,000 cases a day or less, which could take up to 14 days to arrive. This means a stamp-it-out approach, with contact tracing, isolation and anyone with symptoms to get tested with PCR tests. Rapid antigen tests will start to be integrated. Cases will need to isolate for 14 days, and close contacts for 10.

Stage two will be a transition phase, where the system is adjusted to focus on identifying those at greater risk from severe illness.

Stage three, when cases are in the thousands per day, means changes will be made to contact tracing, the definition of a contact and isolation requirements. A full rundown will be provided on Wednesday. This stage is likely a few weeks away.

“I know that hearing these sorts of case numbers will be deeply concerning for people to hear,” said Ardern.

150 of 192 flight contacts contacted so far

Contact tracing teams are in action, said director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, and 150 of the 192 close contacts identified from the five flights have been contacted so far.

There are two known groups from the wedding who are infected, and they have visited other events and locations including a funeral, an amusement park, and the Sky Tower.

“It’s more important now than ever for everyone to continue to play their part,” said Bloomfield.

Mask advice and vaccine gaps to be reviewed

Ardern said the government was doing a “quick assessment” of mask advice to see if an update is needed on what types of masks are most effective.

There is currently no plan to further reduce the gap between the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the booster dose, which is currently four months (it was shortened from six months late last year), said Bloomfield.

In the first half of February, health officials will consider whether there’s a need to reduce the gap between the first and second dose of the paediatric vaccine, which is currently eight weeks. Five to 11-year-olds became eligible for the vaccine last week.

All of NZ to move to red at 11.59pm tonight

As we wait for an unexpected press conference fronted by the prime minister and director general of health, which was due to start at 11am, it appears the official Covid-19 website has jumped the gun, with its front page stating “All of New Zealand moves to red at 11.59pm tonight”.

We’ll bring you more details as soon as the press conference starts, and you can watch below.

 

Watch live: PM, Bloomfield hold unscheduled press conference on omicron

Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield are speaking to media about the omicron variant of Covid-19 at 11am. You can watch here from 11am, and we’ll have rolling updates.

Ardern and Bloomfield to speak at 11am

The prime minister and director general of health will give an unscheduled press conference at 11am this morning, it has been announced.

There are now six confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the community, including two Auckland Airport workers, an MIQ staffer and two close contacts. Another omicron case was detected in Palmerston North after being discharged from a managed isolation facility.

The variant behind the nine Covid cases identified in Motueka on Friday has not yet been publicly identified but is expected to be announced at today’s press conference. An Air New Zealand crew member who worked on a flight the cases took from Auckland to Nelson has also tested positive, and that flight and another four are now listed as locations of interest.

Last night the Ministry of Health announced two new cases in Northland. The variant has not yet been established.

The prime minister last week said that the appearance of omicron in the community would likely result in the entire country being placed in the “red” traffic light setting. In red, there would be gathering restrictions on certain venues and businesses which can currently, under orange, operate without restrictions if they are participating in the vaccine pass system.

We’ll have coverage of the press conference as it happens here.