Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: 209 new cases as people leave for Waitangi Weekend, booster gap shrinks

There are 209 new community cases of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health reported.

And 64 Covid-19 cases have been detected at the border.

There are nine Covid patients in hospital today, spread across North Shore, Middlemore, Auckland, Rotorua, Hawke’s Bay and Christchurch hospitals.

One person is in ICU. The average age of those hospitalised with Covid-19 is 52.

Today’s new community cases are in Northland (21), Auckland (99), Waikato (51), the Lakes DHB region (15), Bay of Plenty (15), Hawke’s Bay (3), Tairāwhiti (4) and the MidCentral (1) area.

In a statement, the ministry announced Māori in Aotearoa would reach 90% partial vaccination or first doses today, with the country just 142 doses away from the milestone.

There was a positive detection of the virus in a wastewater sample taken from Whatuwhiwhi on 31 January.

There was also a positive wastewater sample collected from Mangawhai on 1 February.

The Ministry of Health said anyone in these areas with symptoms is asked to please get a test.

Of the 51 Waikato cases, eighteen are based in Hamilton, one is in Matamata and the others are still under investigation.

Twenty three of these cases are linked and the rest are under investigation for linked to other known cases.

The ministry announced 15 new cases in Rotorua, with 13 linked to existing cases and two yet to be connected to the outbreak.

One of the new 15 cases in the Bay of Plenty is a resident at Radius Lexham Park aged residential care facility in Katikati.

The case is linked to a previous case in a staff member at the facility who tested positive on January 27.

All residents had been self-isolating and daily Rapid Antigen Tests are being carried out for all staff and residents, the ministry said.

In addition, the facility was following the recommended response measures including staff wearing full PPE.

The 15 total new cases in the Bay of Plenty are all linked to previous cases. Six are in Tauranga and nine are in the Western Bay of Plenty area.

There are four new cases to report in Tairāwhiti today.

Three of the new cases are household contacts of previously announced cases and were isolating when they tested positive.

Meanwhile, one of the cases was being investigated for links to a previously reported case.

In addition to the four Tairāwhiti cases, there is one other case in region which was not included in today’s numbers as the Ministry was notified after the daily reporting cut-off.

This fifth person’s links to a previously reported case was also under investigation.

There are three new cases in the Hawke’s Bay which have all been linked to previously reported cases and were already isolating when they tested positive.

In the Mid Central area, there is one new case which is a household contact ofa case and was already isolating.

There are three new cases in the Marlborough region which are all close contacts of previously reported cases and were isolating when they tested positive.

These Marlborough cases were not included in today’s numbers as the ministry was notified after the daily reporting cut-off.

Investigations are underway to identify any exposure events linked to these Marlborough cases.

As Kiwis prepare to scatter to all corners of the country for the upcoming long weekend, the drive to get more people boosted against Omicron ramped up today with the three-month gap taking effect.

The threat of infection spread has triggered a warning to holidaymakers in a week which has seen Auckland once more become the nation’s Covid hotspot.

Yesterday, there were more than 147 new community cases and 44 detected at the border.

Auckland was the most infected region with 90 new cases in a day. There were 15 cases in Waikato, 14 in Northland, with the rest of the cases across Bay of Plenty, Taupō, Hawke’s Bay and Wellington.

Thirteen people are currently in hospitals across the North Island with Covid-19, but none require intensive care.

People across New Zealand today took advantage of the revised Pfizer booster schedule, which was brought forward a month earlier in the week, lining up at vaccination stations and clinics across the country.

It will mean a million more New Zealanders will be eligible for their booster shot.

So far more than 1.3 million people have had the extra jab, regarded as the best defence against the highly contagious Omicron variant.

It comes as health officials have urged travellers ahead of the long weekend to prepare to self-isolate if away from home.

“You are likely to need to self-isolate wherever you become a close contact or test positive, so there may be extra costs involved in paying for accommodation and changing your travel plans,” the ministry said.

“There are limited alternative accommodation options for those who are unable to safely isolate in their own homes or if they have travelled elsewhere, and as case numbers rise, the accommodation will be focused on those with high needs.”

Officials warned travel contributed to the spread of the infection and said it was important people going away took measures to reduce the risk of both catching and spreading the virus.

Anyone with any symptoms is advised not to travel. Instead, they should get a test and isolate at home until a negative result is returned.

“The most common early symptoms of the Omicron variant are a sore or scratchy throat, and a runny nose. If you have any of these symptoms, please get a test.”

Holidaymakers were advised to wear a mask inside, physical distance and scan in at locations using the Covid Tracer app.

Earlier today Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he was sceptical about projected international modelling that tens of thousands of new community cases would be surging across New Zealand by this long Waitangi Day holiday weekend.

Questioned on earlier figures that up to 50,000 new cases would be emerging by Waitangi Day – and 80,000 a day a few weeks later – Hipkins described the calculations as useful, saying it was better to have some modelling than none.

“I’ve always been pretty sceptical about the models,” he told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

“They are useful. It’s better to have some modelling than no modelling. It’s a little bit like the weather forecast. Some nights they say it’s going to rain tomorrow and it turns out being a nice sunny day.”

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