About the latest cases
The nine COVID-19 cases reported yesterday in the Nelson/Tasman region have now been confirmed as the Omicron variant, and a further case from the same household was confirmed late yesterday.
These cases are in a single family who flew to Auckland on 13 January to attend a family event and other events on the weekend of 15 and 16 January and initial estimates suggest there were at least 100 people at these events.
This cluster has already led to an additional infection of a fully vaccinated Air New Zealand flight attendant who was infected on flight 5083 on January 16th from Auckland to Nelson which the family was on. That flight attendant has worked four additional flights while infectious.
The five flights are:
Flight NZ 5083 from Auckland to Nelson at 5.20 pm on 16 January
Flight NZ 5080 from Nelson to Auckland at 4 pm on 19 January
Flight NZ 5077 from Auckland to Nelson at 2pm on 19 January
Flight NZ 5049 from Auckland to New Plymouth at 7.50 pm on 19 January
Flight NZ 5042 from New Plymouth to Auckland at 1.50 pm on 20 January
We were also informed late yesterday of a further case who was a guest at the family event. Whole genome sequencing is urgently being carried out but we are treating this as the Omicron variant.
Locations of interest and testing
Initial locations of interest have been identified across Auckland and the Nelson Tasman region and these will be published on the Ministry’s website as they are confirmed. We are encouraging everyone in these regions to check the locations of interest and follow the public health advice.
There is a Section 70 notice in place that puts a legal requirement on all people who were at locations of interest at the relevant times to follow the instructions regarding isolation and testing. Failure to comply can result in a fine of up to $4,000 or imprisonment for up to six months.
At this stage, we are doing what we have already successfully done with Delta to slow the spread of the virus.
If you are unwell, stay home and get a test – at the moment, that is the same PCR test with a nasopharyngeal swab that we have used successfully over the last two years
If you are required to isolate, you will receive advice and – if needed – support to do so; at this stage you will need to isolate for 14 days if you are a case, and 10 days if you are a close contact.
We expect there will be high demand, and it’s important that those who need to be tested are the ones who we test first.
Anyone with symptoms, anyone who has been to a location of interest at the times notified, should isolate immediately and get tested promptly.
New Zealand to move to Red
We don’t yet have a clear lead on the source of infection which links this family to the border, as we have with our other Omicron cases to date. Based on the information available, the risk of undetected community transmission is considered high. On that basis, Ministers have agreed that New Zealand will move into the Red setting of the traffic light system at 11.59pm tonight, Sunday 23 January.
At Red, we need to take action to protect our vulnerable communities and our health system from COVID-19. Learn what we all need to do here.
The vaccine remains New Zealand’s key defence against all variants of COVID-19, including Omicron.
The Ministry continues to encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. We are strongly recommending boosters for anyone over the age of 18 who had their second dose of the vaccine at least four months ago. We are also asking parents with children aged 5-11 years to get all the information they need for vaccination.
As part of our collective preparations for Omicron please check your details are up to date with your regular healthcare provider and in the COVID-19 Tracer app.