New Zealand is going to Red traffic light system at 11.59pm tonight.
Livestream of the Ardern and Bloomfield announcement,
Nine cases of omicron in the Nelson/Marlborough region, connected to a large group gathering in Auckland and flights out of Auckland. The cases are not connected to the border, therefore it is now assumed we have community transmission of omicron.
Jacinda Ardern is talking about how we can attempt to stamp out local outbreaks.
PM is asking New Zealanders to specifically get boosted and vaccinated. She refers to research that shows boosting makes a difference.
The goal now is to slow the outbreaks and spread. Overseas experience is that not acting early leads to fast and large spread.
The Red level focuses on restricting events and gatherings where spread is much more likely.
The government plan, approach to omicron outbreaks,
Ardern’s explanation of why bother slowing omicron down: we are a team, some of us are particularly vulnerable, we can look after everyone.
First case got tested, and this is what has made
Then details of the flights affected. There are legal requirements around close contacts and people at locations of interest to follow instructions.
Contact tracing is being done.
Risk of undetected transmission is high.
The right people need to get tested: those who have been at locations of interest, and those that have symptoms. Other people don’t need to be tested at this stage.
Everyone doing the right things makes a big difference.
Questions from media:
Ardern: Be calm, be kind, get boosted. Vaccination also protects against serious illness.
Is this NZ accepting covid-19 in the community?
Ardern: NZ has always taken a different approach to other countries. The goal is to slow omicron down as much as possible. It’s not like every other illness, we need to be cautious.
Question about panic shopping
Ardern: it’s not a lock down, we have other tools to use, we are slowing things down as much as possible.
Question on masks and Rapid Antigen Tests
Ardern: there will be an update on mask tech in the next few days.
Bloomfield: N95 masks need to be fitted properly or they can be less effective than cloth or surgical masks.
Ardern: this phase of the pandemic we will continue to operate the same as delta re testing etc. Gives us the best chance to limit spread. We will use PCR tests.
Later phases, with more cases, we will transition to using tests differently, including RATs.
Question re what to do if infected or a close contact
Bloomfield: Postive result cases: MoH will do an interview, must isolate 14 days
Household contacts will be tested and must isolate 10 days. Separately where possible.
Other close contacts must isolate 10 days, and follow instructions on testing.
People at locations of interest must contact MoH and follow instructions.
Healtline and the Public Health Units from DHBs will be providing the information and guidance.
Ardern: Phase one is still trying to stamp out outbreaks [hence similar to delta], trying to prevent people from coming in contact.
Definition of close contact and what do to will change with later phases.
Question on Māori and Pacifica people and omicron.
Ardern: vaccination makes a difference to severity of illness. Focus on booster campaign.
When we have a larger number of cases in community, systems looking at the more vulnerable people, identify them quickly, get proper medical assessment and getting the care they need. Scaling up from delta system.
Ardern: we will keep looking at the evidence in terms of how spread happens, but won’t be changing the settings at this time.
Question on modelling and case numbers
Ardern: testing our systems for 1,000 cases up to 10,000 cases per day. We won’t necessarily get that high and strategies are to keep them as low as possible.
Bloomfield: they have a range of modellling data and have developed scenarios planning based on that, hence the 3 phases.
Ardern: we can cope with 50,000/day. We don’t know what will happen here given the newness of omicron. But we are better placed than many places.
Question re how long omicron will last.
Ardern: it’s very new in terms of knowing.
Bloomfield: Other countries had very high peaks that turned quite quickly.
Ardern: our slowing down may slow down when peak arrives. This is good to protect the health system and people needing care.
Question re vulnerable people and elderly
Bloomfield: booster stays at 4 months.
Ardern: holidays have had an impact on booster uptake. Expecting to see a surge on boosters now. The capacity is there for that surge.
Schools won’t be closed. Child vaccination status is not linked to mandates.
Ardern: with high case numbers, testing and contact tracing impacts on health care systems. RATs will come into use at that point.
5.5million RATs available this week. PCRs will be used in the meantime. Businesses are already importing their own RATs. Essential services are being prioritised.
People will still need to do MiQ coming across the border. There will be a phased reopening.
Boosters for under 18s can’t happen yet. Pfizer are getting efficacy and safety data on this. Evidence shows younger people have a good immune response from first two doses.
Arden’s wedding has been cancelled. She expresses sorry and solidarity about other people caught up in this.
Weka: several times Ardern’s comments about and to unvaccinated people have been distinctly different in the past. Kind, considerate, encouraging.
There is absolutely no need to panic buy. Supermarkets will stay open right through.
People can be thoughtful about what to get in case they get sick or need to self isolate.
Post will be updated as details arrive.