43 new cases; Auckland Airport worker has Omicron variant

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 22 Jan 2022, 12:42pm
People queue for vaccinations/booster shots at the Nelson vaccination centre on Paru Paru Rd. (Photo / NZME)
People queue for vaccinations/booster shots at the Nelson vaccination centre on Paru Paru Rd. (Photo / NZME)

43 new cases; Auckland Airport worker has Omicron variant

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 22 Jan 2022, 12:42pm

There are 43 new Covid community cases of Covid-19 today, with 41 new cases at the border. 

There are eight people in hospital, inlcuding four in North Shore, three in Auckland and one in Middlemore. 

There have been 76 contacts identified to date linked to the Palmerston North Omicron case. 

All but two have been contacted and 66 have returned a negative result. Further test results will be reported Sunday. 

The suspected Omicron case of an Auckland Airport worker - reported yesterday - is now also confirmed as having the Omicron variant, the Ministry of Health said. 

As announced yesterday the case was being treated as an Omicron case prior to this being confirmed. 

The case has been potentially linked to returnees in Rotorua and Auckland through whole genome sequencing. 

This information will assist investigations to determine the source of infection, the ministry said. 

There have been 32 contacts identified, around half have been contacted and tested. As reported yesterday there has been one positive result reported in a household member and 16 other contacts have returned a negative result. 

Public health staff are continuing to focus on identifying people who were at the Ara-Tai Café Half Moon Bay in Eastern Auckland. 

Of the 78 contacts identified and linked to the café, 48 have returned a negative result. 

The ministry said this location of interest is high risk and people who were at Half Moon Bay's Ara-Tai Café from 12.30 to 2pm on Tuesday (January 18) are urged to isolate and get tested immediately, and to test again on Sunday, January 23. 

Anyone who visited the café during this time and hasn't already done so, should also contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to register at this location or register online. 

It's a timely reminder to all potential close contacts of a case to either call Healthline or register their location of interest online on the Ministry of Health locations of Interest page and follow advice from a health professional, as this is advice is specific to an individual and the exposure event. 

Five flights have now been linked to the nine cases in the Nelson Tasman region reported yesterday will be listed today as locations of interest. 

An Air New Zealand crew member on the same Auckland to Nelson flight as the nine cases has now tested positive. 

This flight and four other flights the crew member worked on during their possible infectious period, prior to their testing positive, are now also listed as locations of interest. The flights are: 

  • Flight NZ 5083 from Auckland to Nelson at 5.20 pm on January 16
    •Flight NZ 5080 from Nelson to Auckland at 4 pm on January 19
    •Flight NZ 5077 from Auckland to Nelson at 2pm on January 19 
    •Flight NZ 5049 from Auckland to New Plymouth at 7.50 pm on January 19 
    •Flight NZ 5042 from New Plymouth to Auckland at 1.50 pm on January 20 

Air New Zealand report their crew member is fully vaccinated, and the positive case was found after the crew member felt unwell and was tested on top of the regular surveillance testing. 

All those on the flights are in the process of being contacted and provided with advice. 

Whole genome sequencing for the Nelson Tasman cases and the Air New Zealand crew member are expected later today. 

A positive case in Palmerston North was confirmed to be the Omicron variant yesterday, with at least 16 locations of interest. 

The person was released from a Christchurch MIQ facility on Sunday, having returned five negative tests, before travelling to Palmerston North and visiting several public places. 

Officials are yet to pinpoint the source of their infection, though genome sequencing has identified similar but not direct links to borders cases found in Auckland. 

There are three other Omicron cases confirmed in Auckland - and a fourth suspected in a household contact. 

And yesterday an Auckland airport worker and their close contact were also confirmed as suspected Omicron cases, pending the results of genome sequencing. They were not linked to the other Auckland cases. 

These cases have direct links to the border, meaning officials are more confident about containing any spread because they can be contact traced and have not led to any further cases outside of close contacts so far. 

However, University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the sheer number of Covid-19 cases in MIQ - now 559 in international travellers and the seven-day average for cases at the border hitting 40 - indicated New Zealand was on the brink of an outbreak. 

"We've never had anything like that [regarding] infected people sitting in MIQ, ever, nothing even remotely close to that. 

"The Omicron pattern is continuing almost inexorably towards an outbreak in New Zealand." 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week if transmission of the Omicron variant was detected in the community, all of New Zealand would move to the red traffic light setting within 24 to 48 hours. 

Meanwhile, an Auckland cafe and a Rotorua bar are the latest places to be added to the locations of interest list. 

A Covid-19 case visited Kasper's Sports Bar (Gaming Room) in Tutanekai St in Rotorua on Tuesday between 6.30pm and 8pm. Patrons who were exposed are being told to self-isolate and get a test immediately and after five days. 

A Covid-19 case also visited Rise n Shine Cafe, Paerata (near Pukekohe) on Sunday between 11.15am and 1pm. Patrons are asked to self monitor for symptoms for 10 days after exposure. 

There were nine cases confirmed in Nelson yesterday, all from the same household in Motueka. They are the first cases in the region in a month, and public health officials are investigating recent travel to Auckland as the source of infection.