Omicron is the new variant of Covid-19, first detected in South Africa in November 2021. Video/NZ Herald
An Air NZ crew member has been linked to nine cases in the Nelson area while another airport worker has been confirmed as an Omicron case.
Authorities say the crew member worked on five Air NZ flights while potentially infectious, but it is unclear which variant of the virus he had.
It comes as the Department of Health said there were 43 new community cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, with 41 detected at the border.
The new community cases include 19 in Auckland, four in Waikato, six in the Lakes District Health Board area, six in Hawke’s Bay and eight in Nelson Marlborough.
There are eight people in hospital, including four in North Shore, three in Auckland and one in Middlemore.
To date, 76 contacts related to the Palmerston North Omicron case have been identified.
All but two were contacted and 66 returned a negative result. Further test results will be released on Sunday.
The suspected Omicron case of a worker at Auckland airport – reported yesterday – is now also confirmed to have the Omicron variant, the Department of Health has said.
As announced yesterday, the case was being treated as an Omicron case before it was confirmed.
The case has been potentially linked to returnees in Rotorua and Auckland through whole genome sequencing.
This information will help investigations to determine the source of infection, the ministry said.
There have been 32 contacts identified, about half have been contacted and tested. As reported yesterday, a positive result was reported for one household member and 16 other contacts returned a negative result.
Public health staff continue to focus on identifying people who were at Ara-Tai Cafe Half Moon Bay in east Auckland.
Of the 78 contacts identified and linked to coffee, 48 returned a negative result.
The ministry said the landmark is high risk and people who were at the cafe from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday January 18 are asked to self-isolate and get tested immediately, and retest on Sunday January 23.
Anyone who has visited the cafe during this time and has not yet done so should also contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to register there or register online.
This is a timely reminder to all potential close contacts of a case to call Healthline or register their place of interest online on the Department of Health’s Places of Interest page and follow the advice of a healthcare professional, as these tips are specific to an individual and the exposure event.
Five thefts have now been linked to the nine cases in the Nelson Tasman area reported yesterday and listed as places of interest today.
An Air New Zealand crew member on the same Auckland-Nelson flight as the nine cases has now tested positive.
That flight and four other flights the crew member worked on during their possible infectious period, before they tested positive, are now also listed as places of interest. The flights are:
• Flight NZ 5083 from Auckland to Nelson at 5:20 p.m. on January 16
• Flight NZ 5080 from Nelson to Auckland at 4:00 p.m. on January 19
• Flight NZ 5077 from Auckland to Nelson at 2:00 p.m. on January 19
• Flight NZ 5049 from Auckland to New Plymouth at 7:50 p.m. on January 19
• Flight NZ 5042 from New Plymouth to Auckland at 1.50pm on January 20
Air New Zealand reports that its crew member is fully vaccinated and the positive case was discovered after the crew member felt unwell and was tested in addition to regular surveillance testing.
Everyone on the flights is being contacted and advised.
Full genome sequencing of the cases of Nelson Tasman and the Air New Zealand crew member is expected later today.
Nelson Tasman’s nine cases all come from one household, the department said.
Eight of these cases were reported yesterday after the ministry’s reporting deadline and are now added to the official tally. There are no additional new cases to report in the region today.
Experts hope to know the variant of cases later today once genome sequencing is complete.
Anyone who was on those flights and has not yet been contacted should get tested and self-isolate at home.
Public health officials are reporting a strong response to testing yesterday afternoon and expect further demand over the weekend.
Test sites are operating in Nelson and Motueka today and over the weekend. For details of all dedicated testing sites, including general practices, visit Healthpoint or the DHB Facebook page
The seven-day rolling average for daily community cases is now 25, while the rolling average for new cases detected at the border is 41.
There are now 478 active community cases of Covid.
Since the start of the Delta epidemic last August, 11,466 cases have been detected, including 8,715 linked to people known to have already had the virus.
The number of active cases taken care of by health teams is now 4879.
Seventy-eight per cent of those contacts received a call from health teams advising them to self-isolate and get tested, with 78 per cent also returning at least one Covid test result.
There are no unexpected Covid detections in sewage samples.
Health teams distributed 58,481 vaccines yesterday.
This included 42,319 booster shots and 12,388 vaccinations given to children aged 5 to 11.
“The deployment of the vaccine in New Zealand remains our main defense against all variants of Covid-19, including Omicron and we want to continue to thank everyone who received their first, second or booster yesterday, and thank you also to all 5-11 year olds who went for their first dose,” the ministry said.
Lakes DHB has now reached the 90% double dose mark, while 95% of eligible Hutt Valley residents are now also receiving a double dose.
There have now been 946,449 booster shots distributed across New Zealand.
Ninety-three percent of eligible Kiwis have already received two injections and 95% have received a single dose of the vaccine.
Eighty-four percent of Maori receive a double dose before the potential arrival of the Omicron variant and 89 percent received a single dose.
Ninety-three percent of eligible Pacific people receive a double dose, while 96% received a single injection.
There are no Kiwis in intensive care with Covid at the moment.
Of the eight people hospitalized, none is unvaccinated, one is partially vaccinated (having received a dose or being less than 14 days after his second injection), the other seven people are fully vaccinated.
The average age of those hospitalized is 63 years old.
There are 19 new cases to report in Auckland.
Health and social care providers are now supporting 725 people in the region to self-isolate at home, including 158 cases.
There are four new cases in Waikato to report today. All are in Hamilton and linked to previous cases.
Public health, primary care and manaaki providers in the area are caring for 22 cases to be isolated at home.
There are six new cases in the DHB Lakes region – all are in the Rotorua area.
The six cases are linked to previously reported cases.
All cases are isolated at home or in managed accommodation.
There are six cases in Hawke’s Bay, including one that health teams originally announced in yesterday’s statement.
The five new cases are all linked to existing cases.
As investigations continue, additional places of interest may be added to the ministry’s website.
Palmerston North on edge as Omicron case confirmed
A positive case in Palmerston North was confirmed yesterday to be the Omicron variant, with at least 16 sites of interest.
The person was released from an MIQ facility in Christchurch on Sunday, after returning five negative tests, before traveling to Palmerston North and visiting several public places.
Authorities have yet to identify the source of their infection, although genome sequencing has identified similar but not direct links to border cases found in Auckland.
University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the number of Covid-19 cases in the MIQ – now 559 among international travelers and the seven-day average for border cases reaching 40 – indicated that New Zealand was on the verge of an epidemic.
“We’ve never had anything like this [regarding] infected people sitting at the MIQ, never, nothing close to that.
“The Omicron model continues almost inexorably towards an epidemic in New Zealand.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week that if transmission of the Omicron variant was detected in the community, all of New Zealand would go through a red light within 24 to 48 hours.
Meanwhile, an Auckland cafe and a Rotorua bar are the latest places to be added to the list of places of interest.
A case of Covid-19 visited Kasper’s Sports Bar (Gaming Room) on Tutanekai Street in Rotorua on Tuesday between 6.30pm and 8pm. Customers who have been exposed must self-isolate and be tested immediately and after five days.
A case of Covid-19 also visited Rise n Shine Cafe, Paerata (near Pukekohe) on Sunday between 11.15am and 1pm. Clients are advised to self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days after exposure.
There were nine confirmed cases in Nelson yesterday, all from the same household in Motueka. These are the first cases in the region in a month, and public health officials are investigating recent travel to Auckland as a source of infection.