Live: 25 new community cases - 8 more people infected with Omicron

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 24 Jan 2022, 12:28pm
A queue is forming at the Balmoral Community Testing Centre this morning. (Photo / Michael Craig)
A queue is forming at the Balmoral Community Testing Centre this morning. (Photo / Michael Craig)

Live: 25 new community cases - 8 more people infected with Omicron

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 24 Jan 2022, 12:28pm

There are 25 new cases of Covid-19 in the community and the Omicron cluster has grown to 19.

Eight new cases of Omicron in this cluster of 19 were reported today

Two are in the Nelson/Tasman region and are contacts of existing cases, five cases are in Auckland linked to one of the reported family events, and there is an additional case in Palmerston North, a household contact who was already isolating and linked to the previously reported Palmerston North Omicron case, the Ministry of Health said.

"The number of cases and contacts are expected to grow given the highly transmissible nature of Omicron and as we learn more from case interviews," the ministry said.

There are 50 new cases of Covid-19 at the border.

Ten people are in hospital with the virus. No one is in ICU or HDU.

Today's new community cases of Covid-19 are in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Rotorua, Palmerston North, and Nelson/Tasman.

One of Nelson/Tasman cases was first announced yesterday, the ministry said, and was officially added to the case numbers today.

Both of the Nelson/Tasman cases are linked to previously reported Omicron cases.

More locations of interest have been identified across Auckland and the Nelson Tasman region.

The locations will be published on the Ministry's website as they are confirmed.

The Palmerston North case is a household contact of previously reported Omicron case and this case was already isolating.

In addition to the community cases reported today, there were two confirmed historical border cases in Canterbury to report.

Summerset by the Park rest home

Residents and staff of this Auckland aged residential care facility have been tested after a worker who tested positive was linked to the current Omicron outbreak.
The rest home in Auckland's Flat Bush is now closed to visitors.

"Anyone who visited the rest home since Tuesday 18 January is asked to monitor for Covid-19 symptoms for 10 days after exposure. If symptoms develop, get a test, and stay at home until you return a negative test result," the ministry said.

"Test results for residents and staff are currently being processed. The test results returned so far have been negative. Whole-genome sequencing is being carried out however we are treating this as an Omicron case."

How we'll test for Omicron

Health officials have amended the prioritisation of whole-genome sequencing on positive cases of Covid-19 - as international data on Omicron and new community cases of the variant evolved.

As Omicron is potentially now transmitting in the New Zealand community, health officials are prioritising whole-genome sequencing for any unlinked positive cases of Covid-19 in the community.

The new approach would help to detect any cases of Omicron as quickly as possible, establish any links to existing cases, and slow the spread of the virus.

These samples will be treated as urgent and tested within 12-24 hours of being received by the laboratory, the ministry said.

Many Kiwis have today returned to working from home and a raft of summer events hang in the balance after the country moved back into the red traffic light setting at 11.59pm yesterday following confirmation that Omicron had entered the community.

The move to red comes as genome sequencing continues to work out exactly how a Motueka family caught Covid after visiting Auckland.

They flew to Auckland on January 13 and attended a wedding, a funeral and other locations with more than 100 people.

Cabinet is not meeting today due to the Wellington Anniversary public holiday.

Earlier today the ministry released new Omicron exposure site locations including an Auckland restaurant, airport bus ride and a Motueka supermarket.

The connection between the nine Nelson Omicron cases and the border is not yet known - leading health officials to believe the highly transmissable variant was circulating in Auckland and potentially in the Nelson region.

The family visited the city last weekend, attending a wedding and funeral, and visiting SkyCity and an amusement park.

Another guest at the New Lynn wedding and an Air New Zealand crew member who worked on five Air NZ flights while potentially infectious have since tested positive for Omicron.

The wait for vaccines outside a Balmoral, Auckland centre today. Photo / Michael Craig

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB this morning that there would be "undoubtedly" more Omicron cases today.

Modelling he had received suggested there could be "tens of thousands" of daily Omicron cases within weeks.

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said this morning that some other crew members were already showing symptoms and he expected more of the workforce to test positive.

The infected crew member who worked the Auckland to Nelson flight was double vaccinated, but he was unsure if they had received their booster shot, he told RNZ.

He said the infected crew member was in "good shape and in good spirits". The positive result had been picked up as part of Air New Zealand's regular testing.

Air New Zealand has stood down a number of crew members - all double vaccinated - linked to the infected passenger and crew member.

Yesterday, there were 24 new community cases with Covid-19 and eight people in hospital.

There were 16 cases in Auckland, two in Northland, one in Waikato and five in Rotorua.

The tenth household member in Nelson Tasman to test positive will be officially added to today's case numbers.

An aged care worker from Summerset by the Park Rest Home in Flat Bush in Auckland also tested positive for Covid, plunging the facility into lockdown yesterday. The worker is linked to the Nelson family and genome sequencing is being carried out to confirm if they also have the Omicron variant.