Omicron in Aotearoa; Motu moves to Red at midnight

By Will Trafford

Aotearoa will move to red on the Covid-19 protection framework or traffic light system at midnight tonight following confirmation of the spread of Omicron within the community.

Nine cases in Motueka have been confirmed as the highly contagious variant with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying the group attended a wedding in Auckland with ‘well over 100 people’.

Omicron is now circulating in ‘Auckland and possibly Nelson’ Ardern told media at a hastily called press conference this morning.

The variant has also spread to a fully vaccinated Air New Zealand worker who crewed the flight the family was on and flew five subsequent flights while contagious.

The move to red will see mandatory vaccine passes and a cap of 100 people at events across the motu; masks will be mandatory and employees could be required to work from home, when possible Ardern said.

Schools will stay open but year four and up will be required to wear masks. Travel across the motu will continue but, although not announced today, localised lockdowns could come into play to contain clusters.

Gyms and close-contact businesses such as hairdressers and beauty salons remain open in red, but public health measures are in place.

"The difference to previous outbreaks is we are now well vaccinated and well prepared," she said.

The focus of the coming days will be getting booster shots for those eligible; just 56 percent of eligible adults have had boosters so far.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield praised the first person in Motueka to get tested and said those on board flights staffed by the Covid-positive airline worker have been notified.