School children are getting their Covid-19 jabs from today while the highly transmissable Omicron variant continues to hover on New Zealand’s doorstep.
There are 16 community cases of the virus today, the Ministry of Health has announced.
Today’s new community cases are in Auckland, Lakes, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and the West Coast.
Thirty people are in hospital with the virus – two of which are in ICU.
A MIQ worker at the Stamford Plaza tested positive for Omicron on Friday and of the 67 close contacts linked them, 43 have already returned negative test results.
Further genome sequencing of the other positive returnee cases at the Stamford Plaza was also being completed.
In a statement released today, the ministry said the objective was to stamp out and prevent any onward transmission.
“With 93 per cent of the eligible population now double-dosed and the booster programme under way, New Zealanders are well protected.”
We want vaccinations to continue to increase and ask everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, they said.
As Omicron continues to spread like wildfire overseas, Cabinet will meet this week to consider the latest advice from health officials to ensure New Zealand is prepared for when it makes its way into the community.
It will also receive advice on the country’s traffic light settings this week and will make an announcement on Thursday.
Meanwhile Northland remains in the red traffic light setting, while the rest of the country is in orange.
The Auckland boundary – which previously meant people who were vaccinated or who had a recent negative Covid test could cross – also opened up to everyone today.
It comes as some experts are warning more restrictions are needed to ensure a larger part of the population has its booster shots before Omicron spreads into the community.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that the Government’s next steps would be cautious, although she did not say whether caution meant remaining at the orange setting or moving the country down to green.
Ardern said Omicron cases in the community were inevitable and urged people to get their booster shots as soon as they were eligible.
She is getting her third jab today.
Anyone over the age of 18 can now book their booster shots using BookMyVaccine.nz or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline or visiting a walk-in clinic.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health recently reduced the interval between the second dose and a booster dose from six months to four months to help accelerate the rollout and provide greater protection against the Omicron variant.
The Ministry of Health has also updated its booster advice for pregnant people and those who are severely immunocompromised, saying it can be given at least four months after the second dose and at any stage during the pregnancy.
“We are urging everyone to receive their booster dose as soon as four months has passed following their second dose. Even if it’s been less than four months since your second dose, you can still book ahead to ensure you get the date and time you prefer, once you’re eligible.”
More than 82 per cent of vaccinated New Zealanders will be eligible for a booster by the end of February.
About a third of the 65 new border cases reported last Wednesday were staying in Auckland’s Stamford Plaza facility – the same hotel where the latest community case worked. The vast majority of the cases were the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.
Auckland Regional Public Health is working with MIQ staff to look for any possible routes of transmission between the returnees and the worker and staff at this facility are in the process of having an additional test arranged.
Ministry of Health data shows the majority of cases popping up at the border are the Omicron variant with 266 cases detected in MIQ since December 1.
Meanwhile new locations of interest continue to pop up around the country with Pine Haven Orchards in Greytown and Community meeting Waihou Community Hall in Waihou both being listed earlier today.
Anyone at these locations must self-monitor for Covid-19 symptoms for 10 days after they were exposed.
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