Schoolchildren are getting their shots of Covid-19 from today as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron continues to hover on New Zealand’s doorstep.
There are 16 community cases of the virus today, the health ministry said.
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 – including two in intensive care.
An MIQ employee at Stamford Plaza tested positive for Omicron on Friday and of the 67 close contacts who linked them, 43 have already returned negative test results.
Additional genome sequencing of the other positive returnee cases at Stamford Plaza was also being completed.
In a statement released today, the ministry said the aim was to eradicate and prevent further transmission.
“With 93% of the eligible population now having received a double dose and the booster program underway, 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, the Cabinet will meet this week to consider the latest advice from health officials to ensure New Zealand is prepared for entry into the community.
He will also receive advice on the country’s traffic light settings this week and make an announcement on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Northland remains in the red light setting, while the rest of the country is in orange.
The Auckland border – which previously meant people who had been vaccinated or had recently tested negative for Covid could cross – also opened up to everyone today.
It comes as some experts warn that more restrictions are needed to ensure more of the population gets their booster shots before Omicron spreads through 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 staying on the orange setting or turning the country green.
Ardern said cases of Omicron in the community were inevitable and urged people to get vaccinated as soon as they were eligible.
She receives her third blow today.
Anyone over the age of 18 can now book their boosters using BookMyVaccine.nz or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline or visiting a walk-in clinic.
Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the Department of Health had recently reduced the interval between the second dose and a booster dose from six months to four months to help speed up rollout and provide a better protection against the Omicron variant.
The Department of Health has also updated its booster advice for pregnant women and those who are severely immunocompromised, saying it can be given at least four months after the second dose and at any stage of pregnancy. .
“We urge everyone to receive their booster dose as soon as four months have passed after their second dose. Even if less than four months have passed since your second dose, you can always book ahead to ensure ‘get the date and time you prefer, once you’re eligible.’
More than 82% 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 at the Stamford Plaza facility in Auckland – the same hotel where the last community case worked. The vast majority of cases were the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.
Auckland Regional Public Health is working with MIQ staff to investigate all possible routes of transmission between the returnees and the worker and staff at this facility are in the process of arranging further testing.
Data from the Ministry of Health shows that the majority of cases appearing at the border are the Omicron variant with 266 cases detected in the MIQ since December 1.
Meanwhile, new places of interest continue to pop up across the country, with Pine Haven Orchards in Greytown and Community meeting Waihou Community Hall in Waihou both listed earlier today.
Anyone in these places should self-monitor for symptoms of Covid-19 for 10 days after being exposed.