Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 49 new community cases ahead of New Year’s celebrations
Up to 100 people could be isolated following close contact with the man who tested positive for Omicron and has spent time in the community. Video / NZ Herald
There are 49 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today as Auckland enters the orange traffic light ahead of New Year’s celebrations.
Of the current community cases, 22 are in Auckland, 3 in Waikato, 19 in Bay of Plenty, 4 in Lakes District, and one in Hawke’s Bay.
There are 46 people hospitalized with Covid-19, including 3 in intensive care.
Health and welfare providers are now helping 1,257 people self-isolate at their homes in Auckland, including 333 cases.
There are no new Omicron cases in the community. Ten Omicron cases were identified in MIQ, bringing the total number of borderline cases of the variant to 88.
Details of the exact movements of a British DJ infected with Omicron who spent two days in the Auckland community visiting bars and restaurants and on Waiheke Island have not yet been fully clarified, but the health ministry said the risk of community transmission of DJ is low.
Contact tracing has now identified 88 close contacts from the case. 80 of these contacts have been reached, all are insulating and have been tested. The health ministry said its contact tracers were “working urgently” to contact the eight remaining close contacts.
Six close contacts who attended the Hidden Lakes festival also all tested negative for Covid-19. “This means that there was no risk to public health associated with this event,” the ministry said.
Second Omicron holster
Yesterday, a second case of the Omicron Covid-19 strain in the community was detected after an Air New Zealand crew member tested positive for the most infectious variant on December 27.
Eight close contacts of this crew member are now isolated after the person arrived in Auckland from Sydney on Christmas Eve.
Seven of those close contacts have yielded negative results, but no places of interest have yet been identified for the community exhibit at Omicron.
The Department of Health now assumes that all recent arrivals to New Zealand who test positive for Covid-19 have the Omicron variant, and will prioritize whole genome sequencing for any positive cases in border workers and their families.
This prioritization will mean that samples for border workers and their families will be tested within 12 hours of being received by the lab.
“This is where there is the greatest risk of Omicron entering the community. This new approach will help ensure that the risk of any community transmission of Omicron remains low,” the health ministry said.
Today’s update comes as Auckland prepares for large New Years Eve crowds to be allowed to congregate for the first time since August after moving from the red frame to the orange frame of the Covid-frame. 19 at midnight last night.
Taupō, Lake Rotorua, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts also turned orange at midnight last night, leaving only Northland in red.
It will be the last traffic light change this year before Cabinet revises the settings in mid-January.
In the orange frame, places such as bars, restaurants and cafes that enforce vaccine pass requirements can lift previous crowd size limits and do not need to impose seats – which will allow dancing the night away on New Year’s Eve.
The Department of Health today announced that 90% of eligible Pacific people nationwide are now fully vaccinated, with a total of 258,713 having received their second dose.
Hawke’s Bay DHB has also reached the milestone of 90 percent of the eligible population being fully immunized.
More than 300,000 people have also received a booster, which represents about 70% of those eligible to receive their booster six months after their second dose.
DJ Dimension and Omicron are scary
DJ Dimension, real name Robert Etheridge, traveled to New Zealand on December 16 to perform at the Rhythm & Alps festival.
The British DJ spent seven days at MIQ, before being moved to an approved seaside location for MIQ.
Etheridge ended his stay and spent two days in the community – including bars and restaurants in Auckland and on Waiheke Island – before getting the results of his ninth day Covid test; one that would come back as positive.
The tests are available on Waiheke Island today.
Anyone who has attended the Hidden Lakes Festival – where close DJ contact has occurred – and is concerned should call Healthline, the ministry said.
Only a small number of contacts from this case attended the festival, all of whom tested negative beforehand.
At this stage, there are no known contacts or cases associated with the Rythme & Alpes festival.
Another interview with the DJ is underway to determine other places of interest, the ministry said.
The ministry said Etheridge arrived on December 16 and, as the previous regime required for international arrivals, completed 10 full days of isolation; seven days in a managed segregation facility and three days in self-isolation.
Etheridge was tested on the ninth day but did not wait for a negative test result before self-releasing.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government is asking people to stay in their bubbles while isolating themselves.
“It hasn’t been the case here and it’s very disappointing.
“This is of course a reminder that while many of us feel like we’re done with Covid, Covid-19 is not done with us.”
Etheridge has traveled to New Zealand on a critical use visa three times since March 2020.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said New Zealand’s current Covid settings work well for the Delta variant – but will need to be adjusted once Omicron has successfully infiltrated the community.
“Right now our settings are not right for Omicron at all and we need to do a very quick review of the policy settings, really the pandemic settings, if Omicron were to spread widely,” Baker said.
“Basically, if Omicron is in the community, we might have a real problem because it will spread very quickly. And the main reason it spreads very quickly, this variant seems to be both inherently more contagious – it’s probably due to the production of more viral particles, higher viral load in some parts of the waves – and secondly, it escapes some of the immunity, especially the antibody immunity generated by the Pfizer vaccine.
“So it would spread very quickly if it were established in Auckland from now on from one or both [recent community] sources, it will spread widely and it will be very difficult to contain. “