Omicron update — 24 January 2022

Read the latest Omicron update from the Ministry of Health.

Public health officials are continuing to manage Omicron cases in the community through rapidly isolating cases and contacts, contact tracing, and testing in order to slow the spread.

To date, there are 19 community cases of COVID-19 associated with the January Omicron Cluster, all are in isolation.

Of these cases, today we are reporting eight – 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 number of cases and contacts are expected to grow given the highly transmissible nature of Omicron and as we learn more from case interviews.

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.

We also continue to urge anyone with symptoms, or anyone who has been to a location of interest at the times notified, to isolate immediately and get tested promptly.

Whole genome sequencing

With the evolving international data on Omicron and new community cases of the variant, we have recently amended the prioritisation of whole genome sequencing on positive cases of COVID-19.

As Omicron is potentially now transmitting in the New Zealand community, we are prioritising whole genome sequencing for any unlinked positive cases of COVID-19 in the community. This new approach will 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.

Furthermore, as we are now assuming all recent arrivals who test positive have the Omicron variant, we will also prioritise whole genome sequencing for any positive cases of COVID-19 in border-related workers and their families.

Previously we prioritised whole genome sequencing for cases of COVID-19 in international arrivals. Samples from international arrivals will still be analysed as part of routine sequencing.

Locations of interest

Further 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 will be people from outside of these regions who may have visited those locations at the same time period, so it is important for anyone who has been in these locations over the past week to check the website and see if they are included in that time the case was there.

It is also a timely reminder to all potential close contacts of a case to either call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or record their visit online to a location of interest and follow advice from a health professional, as this is advice is specific to an individual and the exposure event.

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.

Section 70 notice | Health.govt.nz (external link)

Testing

We continue to urge anyone with symptoms, or anyone who has been to a location of interest at the times notified, to isolate immediately and get tested promptly.

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.

All DHBs are ensuring there is good access to testing across the regions. Public health officials are closely monitoring the situation and ensuring additional testing capacity is available, if needed.

Find a testing centre | Healthpoint.co.nz. (external link)

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