Covid-19 Omicron: 744 new cases as Auckland faces changes to testing rules

Protesters take to the streets, lab staff prepare for increased testing and Phase 2 is here in the latest headlines from the New Zealand Herald. Video / NZ Herald

There are 744 new cases of Covid in the community today, on the eve of the country moving into the next phase of its response.

It comes after back-to-back record days that have seen the number of cases rise. The high numbers – and the resulting queues at testing stations – led to a change in the rules, with health bosses saying to only get tested in specific circumstances.

Forty people with Covid-19 are in hospital in Whangārei, North Shore, Middlemore, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, the Department of Health said in its 1 p.m. update.

None are in intensive care. The average age of those hospitalized is 59 years old.

There are 19 cases of Covid-19 detected at the border.

The move to phase 2 of the Omicron government’s response plan comes in anticipation of a wave of thousands of cases of the variant sweeping the country.

Auckland remains the center of the outbreak with 535 new cases. There are other cases across the country – Northland (43), Waikato (69), Bay of Plenty (8), Lakes (10), Hawke’s Bay (1), MidCentral (6), Taranaki (2), Tairāwhiti (7), Wairarapa (1), Capital and Coast (5), Hutt Valley (1), Nelson Marlborough (9), Canterbury (9) and the Southern Region (30).

The ministry has also extended the deadline for the health and disability sector to have their vaccine booster until February 24, 2022 at 11:59 p.m.

The new dates also apply to all workers covered by the Health Mandated Dates due to work they undertake in Corrections, FENZ, Defence, Education and Policing.

“Vaccinated people are less likely to become seriously ill or hospitalized than unvaccinated people,” the ministry said.

“The booster shot provides a high level of protection against Omicron, so if it’s been three months since you received your second dose, please get your booster as soon as possible.”

The ministry said in a statement that it was encouraging to see a high level of testing this week – but that it was important that the right people were tested for the right reasons.

Although there is good testing capacity across the country, unnecessary testing could delay results for those who urgently need it, he said.

The ministry said people should only get tested if they had cold or flu symptoms, had been to a place of interest or had been asked to be tested by an official. of health.

The ministry anticipated continued high demand for Covid-19 testing sites and asked people to be patient.

“Our frontline healthcare staff are doing their best to help in a timely manner.”

In the past 24 hours, a total of 21,070 Covid-19 tests had been administered. The past seven-day rolling average for Covid-19 testing was 21,742.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has revealed new rules for travelers which will come into effect alongside the first stage of border reopenings on February 28.

Travelers could now self-isolate for seven days instead of having to go through the MIQ as long as they are fully vaccinated and able to return a negative test before flying.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said tens of thousands of people will arrive in New Zealand when self-isolation rules for travelers are relaxed on February 28.

She said Australia and New Zealand had both handled cases at the border.

“They removed their border controls quite quickly, and New South Wales had the equivalent of what there would be in New Zealand 17,000 cases at this point.”

“So we want to keep slowing it down so that it doesn’t harm our healthcare and our healthcare workforce,” Ardern added.

The Prime Minister was asked how the self-isolation will eventually end.

“We expect that over time…we will be in a position where we don’t have all of the restrictions that we currently have. And that includes the requirement that when you return from abroad when travelling, you won’t need to isolate yourself.

“Now is not the time – we are on an upward trend with cases, so we must continue to be cautious.”

Yesterday there were 981 new cases in the community. The day before there were 810, and the day before there were 454.

At midnight tonight, contact isolation periods will be reduced from 10 to seven days, contact tracing will focus on “high risk” exposure events and employees who are part of the “workforce essential” may be released from their isolation requirements if they produce a negative RAT test.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes says moving to Phase 2 makes little difference to businesses in the seaside resort.

As for vaccinations, 96% of eligible people, aged 12 and over, had now received one dose of the vaccine while 95% had received two. (edited)

Sixty-one percent of those eligible for a booster received it.

Yesterday, 580 first doses, 1,233 second doses, 1,466 pediatric doses and 47,573 booster doses were administered.

For eligible Maori aged 12 and over, 90% received one dose and 86% received two doses. Among eligible people in the Pacific, ages 12 and older, 97% received one dose and 95% received two.

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