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ScienceJanuary 25, 2022

So you’ve come into contact with omicron


Need a refresher on what happens if omicron comes into your life? We’ve played out a few possible scenarios so you don’t have to. 

Omicron is here and, as Siouxsie Wiles wrote yesterday, it’s a game changer. Given that most of us have just enjoyed a relatively Covid-free summer, the fact that omicron is in the community and the entire country has been thrust into the red light setting can be a lot to take in. We’ve done our best to scour public health websites for advice, and have outlined a range of different scenarios that could happen to you in the age of omicron. 

What if I have been to a location of interest visited by an omicron case? 

Many of the locations of interest connected with omicron have been upgraded to “close contact” exposure events, meaning you will be considered a close contact. You may receive a notification through the NZ Covid Tracer app if you have scanned into a location visited by a positive case, but it still pays to keep an eye on the list of locations on the Ministry of Health site

If you have visited the same location as a positive omicron case, the current advice is to stay home, test immediately and again on day five after exposure

Visitors to lower risk locations are being asked to self-monitor symptoms for 10 days after the exposure date and, if symptoms develop, to get tested and stay home until a negative result is returned.

What if someone in my household is a close contact of an omicron case?

You’d be considered a secondary contact, which means that you should stay at home until the close contact returns a negative result on day five. If they develop symptoms after the negative day five test, the household will need to stay home until they return an additional negative test. In the event that more members of the household begin developing symptoms, they should get tested, stay at home until a negative test is returned and their symptoms have been resolved for over 24 hours

What if someone in my household has tested positive for omicron?

Every member of the household will need to stay at home for 14 days while the case recovers, and a further 10 days after the case has been released. That means a total of 24 days in isolation for all household contacts of a positive case. If the positive case goes to a managed isolation facility, you will still need to stay home and get what is mysteriously referred to as “series of tests”.

Image: Toby Morris

What if I am awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test?

Go straight home after your test and stay put. Your results should be made available between two and five days – contact your doctor or the testing centre if they ghost you for longer than this. If your result is positive, you will receive a direct call from the public health team, so keep your ringer on. If your result is negative you will, in the words of Love Island, “get a text”. 

What if I then test positive for Covid-19?

Positive cases will be contacted by public health officials to discuss the people and locations you have come into contact with recently, and whether or not you will self-isolate at home or relocate to a quarantine facility. 

If you are self-isolating, you will then have to stay at home for a period of at least 14 days, until you have shown no symptoms for 72 hours and are not considered infectious. Here’s something we prepared earlier about how to care for yourself and others at home after testing positive for Covid-19

If it is more suitable that you spend your recovery in a managed isolation facility, you will be in MIQ for at least 14 days. Ensure you pack enough clothing, medication, toiletries, and entertainment to pass the time. All your meals will be provided for, and registered nurses will be on site 24/7. If you have pets, you will have to arrange for someone to care for them. 

What if I develop symptoms on holiday?

Don’t wait until you return home, get tested ASAP. Before you go away, make a plan for how you can stay safe, and how you will get home to isolate in the event that you test positive. It could be useful to ask yourself the following questions, as outlined in this handy holiday guide:

Where is the closest testing centre where you are staying? When is it open? What will you do while you wait for test results? Will it be possible for you to self-isolate while you wait for a test result if you have symptoms? Where is the closest medical centre? Is there good phone reception? If not, what will you do in a health emergency?

If you won’t have easy access to online deliveries and laundry services while away, and you don’t have anyone who can help you, you can call the COVID Welfare line on 0800 512 337 for assistance. 

What if I test positive for omicron and I live in an apartment building?

Although you are not legally obligated to, you may wish to let your body corporate know in the event that you need assistance while isolating – just keep in mind that they cannot share your identity, unit number or Covid-19 status without your consent. 

Because you will be isolating and therefore unable to access shared areas such as hallways and lifts – unless it is an emergency – make sure you have some clued-up friends and whānau who know how to drop supplies straight to your door. 

What are the symptoms again? 

It is very hard to tell the difference between Covid-19 and the common cold or flu. “Assume [any cold-like] symptoms are Covid until proven otherwise,” infectious disease expert Professor David Murdoch told Stuff yesterday

The main symptoms to watch out for include a new or worsening cough, sneezing and runny nose, fever, loss of smell or taste, a sore throat and shortness of breath. Stay at home if any of those pop up, and call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 3584 5453 to inquire about getting a test. Covid-19 tests are free. We repeat, Covid-19 tests are free. 

What if I feel all good?

Congratulations. Stick to the traffic light rules. Keep scanning in everywhere using the Covid Tracer App, ensure that you wear a mask when you leave the house. Maintain a physical distance of one metre from people whenever possible in public places. If you aren’t vaccinated already, get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, book your booster as soon as you can. 

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