Omicron circulating in 'Auckland and possibly Nelson'

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Ministry of Health is reporting 24 new community cases of Covid-19 today, as Aotearoa prepares to shift to red on the Covid-19 protection framework at midnight tonight.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is now circulating in "Auckland and possibly Nelson".

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

The ministry says a further case from the same household was confirmed late Saturday.

"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," the ministry says.

A guest at the family event has also returned a positive test for Covid-19, the ministry says, adding to the growing cluster.

"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."

This case would appear to be an Auckland aged residential care worker, at Summerset by the Park Rest Home in Flat Bush. The ministry says the worker associated with the family from Nelson tested positive for Covid-19.  "The worker is fully vaccinated and Whole Genome Sequencing is being carried out however we are treating this as a contact of a known Omicron case."

The resthome is now closed to visitors and testing is being carried out on residents and staff. The ministry says anyone who has visited the rest home since Friday 21 January and has symptoms of Covid-19 should isolate and get a test as soon as possible.

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.

"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

The ministry says 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."

Today's new community cases

The majority of the 24 new community cases today are in Auckland, where there are 16 cases. There are a further five new cases in the Lakes District Health Board region, two cases in Northland and one case in Waikato.

The five new Lakes cases are all in the Rotorua District and are isolating at home or in managed accommodation. Three of the cases are linked to previously reported cases and the other two cases are being investigated to determine links.

The two new Northland cases are both in the Kaitaia area and are household members of an existing case. The ministry says there are also an additional two cases in the region that were reported last night which will be added to Monday's case numbers.

"This included one linked case in Whangārei who is a close contact of a case and was already in isolation. The other case was in the Kaitaia area and investigations are continuing to establish a link to previous cases. Whole genome sequencing is underway for this case."

The one new Waikato case today is in Hamilton and is linked to previous cases.  In the Waikato, public health, primary care and manaaki providers are supporting 15 cases to isolate at home, the ministry says.

Hospital

Eight people are in hospital with Covid-19 today, with an average age of 62. Five are in North Shore, two in Auckland and one in Middlemore. None are in intensive care.