New Zealand’s Omicron options

Written By: - Date published: 2:31 pm, January 17th, 2022 - 101 comments
Categories: covid-19, long covid, vaccines - Tags:

RNZ reported yesterday that an MiQ worker has tested positive for the omicron variant of Covid-19,

The Auckland MIQ worker returned a positive test result as part of routine testing.

The Ministry of Health has now confirmed that the worker has caught the Omicron variant.

More than 50 close contacts have so far been identified.

All of the case’s seven household contacts identified have already been contacted, isolated and tested, and returned a negative result.

The case and one household contact are now isolating in a MIQ facility. The remaining household contacts are isolating at locations in Auckland and Taupō.

A further 48 close contacts are in the process of being contacted; 15 of them have returned a negative test, including five in Taupō.

The worker, who was infectious from 10 January, took two bus services in Auckland and visited a supermarket and four other stores in the city.

Those locations, and areas of the MIQ facility are considered high-risk, and the Ministry of Health says anyone in Auckland with symptoms should get tested.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the person had done “everything by the book” and had been acting in very cautious way.

My emphasis. Locations of Interest are listed here and include various places in the North Island (and a few in the South Island).

This is serious. Omicron spreads fast and has the potential to cause similar chaos here as is happening in Australia: increased numbers of people getting sick, health system overwhelm, lots of people off work affecting services and supply lines.

We have some choices here, in large part thanks to the Labour government who is intent on reducing spread rather than opening up at this stage. There are things we can be doing that will make a difference.

This morning Morning Report interviewed Covid-19 modeller University of Canterbury professor Michael Plank. He says it will be a few days until we know if omicron is in the community.

Plank said it was a timely reminder for people to keep up to date with locations of interest and scan in.

“It’s a really good idea now to check that list of locations of interest and to make sure that you do scan in everywhere you go, and that you’ve got Bluetooth turned on.

“This is the best chance we have of stamping this Omicron outbreak out in its early stages before it really takes hold in the community.”

While it was “good news we’ve caught it relatively early with a clear link to the border”, Plank said the country still needed better vaccination and booster rates to contain an Covid-19 Omicron outbreak.

Hold your nerve New Zealand. The opportunity we still have, that many other places in the world don’t, is to slow covid down. This gives us time to get get children vaccinated and adults boostered, and assess what omicron does. Vaccination provides the following benefits,

  1. lessens the chance of individuals catching covid
  2. lessens severity of illness in many people who do get covid
  3. lessens chance of death
  4. lessens the chance of hospitalisation
  5. lessens the chance of long covid
  6. reduces spread because of 1.

Nothing is stopping covid completely, so the aim currently is to slow it down and do damage limitation. Think harm minimisation: reducing harm to individuals, populations, health systems, economies, society.

All of this is still true with omicron. The key thing here is that omicron can still cause problems even if it’s not causing as severe illness as delta. This is because it spreads much more easily.

If people get omicron and it is less harmful, but many more people get it than delta, then the numbers of people needing hospitalisation or who die can still be large. It can still overwhelm New Zealand’s health system. It can still mean many people having to take time off work, and the flow on disruptions to life and the economy.

The current vaccines aren’t as effective against omicron as previous variants. This doesn’t mean they have no effect, it means that the protection is somewhat limited, but there is still protection. Boosting seems to be increasing protection.

If we look at our situation in New Zealand, the comparison isn’t between high vaccinated countries and low vaccinated countries. It’s between New Zealand with omicron and being highly vaccinated, and New Zealand with omicron and low vaccination rates.

Long covid typically is assessed at four months, we don’t know yet what omicron does in that regard. That’s a waiting game. But we should have more data and analysis over the next month about just how omicron plays out acutely. We are incredibly fortunate to have the space to wait and see. For those feeling anxious or stressed that’s a timeframe we can be working within.

For people that choose not to vaccinate, there are still many things that will help limit spread. We should all be doing these,

  • scan or sign in, so that the MoH can find contacts sooner and help them to self isolate
  • hand wash, and social distance
  • wear a mask. The best quality mask you can get, and any mask is better than none.
  • check the Locations of Interest list daily, more often if there is an outbreak in your area
  • check in with people you know to see if they can manage the above or need help. This really is a case of we’re all in this together.
  • Review the Red Traffic Light setting, the Prime Minister said today we will be going to Red if omicron is spreading in the community. Life at Red.

It’s prudent to also be planning for an outbreak. If you can, make sure you have enough staples to get you through several weeks if supply lines are disrupted by workers being off sick or self-isolating. We don’t need to panic buy, there is enough food and other goods in New Zealand, we can just be adding some extras into our usual shopping each week at the moment.

If you don’t have the funds, talk to WINZ, local food banks or support NGOs. If you are well resourced, please start thinking about and talking with people in your neighbourhood who might already be struggling. This is a time when New Zealand can put its values into practice and step up and make sure we are all ok.

Kia kaha, Kia māia, Kia manawanui. Be strong, be brave, be steadfast.

* * *

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101 comments on “New Zealand’s Omicron options ”

  1. mpledger 1

    How can so many people be getting to NZ positive when they are supposed to be having a negative test 48 hours before departure? There were 42 border cases today.

    • weka 1.1

      Presumably they pick up covid in the two days after the test.

    • McFlock 1.2

      Just ballparking the numbers, but not unreasonably outside the realm of false negatives:

      • So a few months ago we were running 40k+ arrivals a month.
      • 42 (today's count of MIQ positive tests) * 30 days in a month = 1260 positive cases a month.
      • 1260/40000*100 = 3.15%

      Which is much lower than the more pessimistic possibilities for RT-PCR false negatives, dunno about PCR. NZ requires either a pcr or rt-pcr preflight.

      tl;dr: It could just be a math thing: if lots of people come in, a few folks with false negatives will be with them.

      • weka 1.2.1

        Who are all the 40,000/mth? ie what % is people returning to NZ still since the pandemic started, and how much is people coming and going?

        • McFlock

          Oh snap, I completely misread that release. 40k/mnth was the year-ending that month, not the monthly total. The monthly figures were further down and, obviously, significantly lower. blush

          My bad. Damned day job starting up again, lol

          It does say "These losses were driven by non-New Zealand citizens with a provisional net loss of 9,100 over the year, compared with a net gain of 7,400 New Zealand citizens. Migration estimates in more recent months have greater uncertainty and are therefore subject to larger revisions than estimates for earlier periods."

          Not sure how much back-and-forth travel there would be, though.

          • UncookedSelachimorpha

            The false negative idea is a good one, though.

            Looks like arrivals have been roughly 400 per day in January. But actually, the number of arrivals is not the number you need to work this out. You need to know the number of people who wanted to come to NZ and who were tested, but rejected due to a positive test result.

            The false-negative rate (FNR) of the Covid19 PCR test has been studied quite a lot, but I can't see a simple accepted number. Estimates have ranged from 1-30%, with this large study finding 9.3%.

            With 40 positive arrivals per day, at a 10% FNR, you would need to be having about 400 people rejected each day due to positive tests, if the 40 positive arrivals were all due to FN results. I have no idea if this could be, but probably not?

            • McFlock

              No-oh I don't quite agree that false positives are relevant.

              False negative is the proportion of negative results that are incorrect, false positives the proportion of positive results that are incorrect. So if both are 10%, to get 40 a day 400 cases come in with 360 negative passengers, while 60 negative people are stuck outside with 540 positive people?

              But if the FN (sensitivity) is 10% but the FP (specificity) is 30%, 360 True-negative passengers come in with 40 false-negative passengers, but leave behind 420 true positives and 180 false positives (total left outside = 600, all tested people = 1000)?

              But the FN of 10% still can be the same 400 negative results, but only 500 people total tried to come in with 100 returning a positive test, that's only 30 people with a false positive and 70 people with a true positive.

              Or I'm just tying myself in knots, lol

    • Nic the NZer 1.3

      For all variants there is known to be a lag between contracting and testing positive for covid. That is why the tests in MIQ are scheduled around days 3 and 11.

      There are known examples of infection showing up more than a week after exposure and subsequent infections without positive test or symptoms.

      Its unfortunate but thats what we are dealing with.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 1.3.1

        Yep, I reckon that is a more likely explanation. Plus travel itself might be a high-risk activity, in terms of picking an infection up.

        • Foreign waka

          Airplane air condition could be a major. Filters need to be exchanged after each route. Do you think anybody is doing this? It just takes one infected person…

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 1.3.2

        Ashley Bloomfield on RNZ today:

        With such big outbreaks of Omicron in countries travellers were arriving from, Bloomfield says the pool of potential cases in MIQ was larger.

        "But also they're at higher risk of getting infected while on route because there are just so many people travelling who are coming from countries where there are large Omicron outbreaks."

  2. tsmithfield 2

    Omicron is 91% less likely to cause death than Delta and half as likely to cause hospitalisation: eg:

    When people are hospitalised their stay tends to be shorter than Delta:

    So, it is becoming quite clear that Omicron is a much less severe disease than Delta.

    The main issue appears to be disruption to services. My wife's sister, who lives in Melbourne, told us recently that the supermarket shelves have been stripped bare for weeks due to insufficient drivers, and there have been disruptions to ambulance services etc because key workers are sick.

    So, it appears that the main focus should be on mitigating disruption rather than the disease itself.

    Making RAT tests widely available as quickly as possible is absolutely necessary. Our government has said they will be available to the general public from early this year, but no sign of that actually eventuating yet.

    • weka 2.1

      As I said in the post,

      The key thing here is that omicron can still cause problems even if it’s not causing as severe illness as delta. This is because it spreads much more easily.

      If people get omicron and it is less harmful, but many more people get it than delta, then the numbers of people needing hospitalisation or who die can still be large. It can still overwhelm New Zealand’s health system. It can still mean many people having to take time off work, and the flow on disruptions to life and the economy.

    • weka 2.2

      It seems reasonable to hold back on the RATs until we really need them and in the meantime use the more effective PCR tests.

      • tsmithfield 2.2.1

        The problem is that waiting until we really need them might be too late. Omicron will probably spread more quickly than we can get tests distributed. So I think it is better to get ahead of the curve and be ready.

        • weka

          aren't they available at chemists now, restricted to specific purposes?

          If you let people buy them freely now they will use them instead of PCRs and this will affect how some people behave in terms of preventing transmission. That's not good.


          • Julian Richards

            From selected pharmacies only, and only available to non-jabbed people travelling on AIRNZ etc. That's it. No one else has access.

      • barry 2.2.2

        There are lots of RATS on the market that are useless. The ones that are accurate enough to be useful are in short supply worldwide. The Ministry is importing them as fast as they reasonably can in competition with every other country that has suddenly thought the same thing.

        When they were available at $10 each we could have given essential workers one every day, and everyone else 1 a week (~$50 million a week). Now they would cost much more than that.

    • McFlock 2.3

      Three links about the same californian study? Bit redundant.

      Anyway, to recap the argument that occurred a day or two back about that paper:

      • the observed risk reduction of death from omicron compared to delta is 91%, but could be anything between 99% (yay) and 25% (boo)
      • to put that study into NZ numbers, delta might kill 1600-odd NZers so NZ might lose 20 to omicron. Or 16. Or 1200. Or anywhere in between, with essentially the same likelihood.
      • If the omicron risk level compared to delta is at the higher end of that study's CI (so 75% of the death rate rater than 1%), and delta is possibly 120% as lethal as alpha, then if alpha kills 100 from a given number of infected people, delta would kill 220, and omicron could kill 75%*220= 165. Or omicron could only kill 2. But we don't know. So omicron could possibly have a similar mortality rate to alpha.
      • weka 2.3.1

        how come we don't know yet with more accuracy?

        (and thanks btw, that's a solid comment)

        • McFlock

          Largely because we only have two months of omicron data. The sad fact is we have to wait for people to die and collate the data or wait for it to be collated and become available. Parallel to that is the ability to get funding to do the work in the first place. Edit: oh, and ethics approval, business plans, researcher recruitment…

          There have basically been two identified generations of omicron going to terminal completion, if it uses the same timeframe as alpha (going from that PHE report on 28 days vs 60 days as a catchment for >90% sensitivity to from-not-with covid deaths). The more deaths we get, the more accurate the metastudies collating all research, and also maybe the larger the number of "participants" (dead people) in each study so there will probably be greater overall precision, too.

          The California study only had a mean followup period a week for omicron patients and of two weeks for delta. That'll cover most folks, probably, and some of either would have had a 30 day followup. But it hurts its accuracy a bit at the "true" ratio (the undiscoverable reality approximated by the study), and studies of similar data using historic cohorts will have the ability to do longer "follow-up", and be a bit more precise in relation to the other studies of the ilk.

          It's a solid study that adds to the sum of human knowledge, don't get me wrong. But it's early days.

          • weka

            thanks, I assumed it was the limited time passed but wasn't sure if there were other reasons.

            When do you think we will have a better idea of the impact of omicron?

            • McFlock

              How long is a piece of string?

              Few months for some really solid data to come through. I mean, cautious optimism at this stage, but not a cause for celebration or throwing caution to the wind. It could still turn pear-shaped. The study numbers are getting there, but the concern is the followup duration.

              Expect the best, but prepare for the worst – omicron running rampant might not be preferable to another few months waiting for another vaccine. Especially if the FDA decides the omicron one is close enough to the previous vaccines to forego a lot of the testing a novel vaccine might require – like the new influenza vaccine variants each year.

              And of course there is the omicron of Damocles at MIQ, just like we've had alpha and delta over the previous years. Sure, an escape might be inevitable, but much of medicine is about delaying the inevitable.

              On the plus side, resistance has been futile for the past 2 years, but we're still managing it. We might get a better vacine in time to head off the worst of the "mild" variant.

      • Tricledrown 2.3.2

        Tsmithfield..Looking across the ditch 25 a day dying in nsw.

        Hospitals being over run .

        To say omricon is less deadly is just plain wrong.

        Omricon also because its so easily spread and breakthrough vaccinations has a massive increase in its ability to mutate having many times more oportunities.

        Rednecks , anti vaxxers are making a lot of false claims to undermine health initiatives.

    • Bearded Git 2.4

      tsmith-The 3 sources you quote from are all from pro-business publications who have a vested interest in portraying Omicron as "mild". The real situation is far more complicated, as can be read in this very recent article (more recent than the studies you quote) in The Scientist.

      It is difficult to pick out key points from this article-it really has to be read as a whole-but one point it makes is:

      "In short, factors such as vaccination may have blunted Omicron’s blow, making it seem less severe than the variants that emerged before COVID-19 vaccines were widely deployed. That means that the Omicron variant shouldn’t be underestimated—a point recently underlined by World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who on January 6 said that it’s more appropriate to say Omicron is “less severe” than other variants than to call it “mild."

      The article supports weka's point (see above) that Omicron will generate large numbers of covid cases in hospitals.

      • Descendant Of Smith 2.4.1

        Also has anyone done an assessment of not having had previous variants run rampant through the country i.e. because we haven't had those deaths then the impact may be higher which is then offset to a large extent by vaccination.

      • tsmithfield 2.4.2

        I agree.

        I think a number of factors are at play. Firstly, the virus probably has mutated to be a bit less harmful. Also, the world has now had a lot of experience with Covid through either vaccination or previous infection.

        Also, a lot of those who were going to die already have.

        So, new strains are likely to be less harmful due to a variety of factors.

        Who knows, if Omicron was the first variant it might have been deadly to a similar level as the original. But I guess it is difficult to tease out the effect of all the various factors.

        Probably the big test will be how it affects unvaccinated people who haven't been infected previously.

    • barry 2.5

      Of course the UK and US are different from NZ as the unvaccinated have mostly already been exposed to a variant of covid. NZ is more comparable to NSW/Victoria. The hospitals are filling up with unvaccinated people and the death rate is higher than any of the previous waves.

  3. tsmithfield 3

    Note, that people in the UK have been able to order tests for 9 months now:

    "For the past nine months, U.K. residents have been able to order a pack of seven rapid tests each day. Less sensitive than a lab test, the rapid antigen kits can give a result in 15 to 30 minutes and are carried out at home, rather than at a center where staff are required.''

    And this has been credited with reducing the spread of Covid:

    “Apart from the vaccine program, this is one of the things that may have made the biggest difference in the U.K.,” Irene Petersen, a professor of epidemiology at University College London, said of the rapid test distribution effort."

    Our government should be doing the same now rather than wait until the storm is here.

    One of the advantages we have is that we can learn from what has worked overseas. Except our government don’t seem to be great learners.

    • weka 3.1

      We are in a really different situation than the UK.

      If NZ let free sales of RATs in NZ, do you think people would choose those instead of getting a PCR test? You know that RATs aren't as effective a test as PCRs right? Can you not see how that would put NZ more at risk?

      • tsmithfield 3.1.1

        The thing is that when Omicron gets here testing accuracy won't be so important.

        I don't think I need to link to this because it was fairly widely reported, but in Australia, some testing laboratories had to close down testing services for a period because they were overwhelmed.

        Omicron changes the game.

        The issue will be more on minimizing the number of people in the community with Omicron to flatten the curve. Thus, if the RAT tests can be done at home, those who receive a positive test can just stay at home rather than go out into the community with the virus.

        If you think about it, requiring RAT testing to be done at a chemist is the height of madness. Potentially contagious people going out into the community to get tested when they could test at home and isolate without venturing into the community.

        • weka

          Didn't think this need this much explaining,

          1. it makes sense to not have RATs for general use in our current situation (ie. delta, because we want PCRs to be used as much as possible due to it being a more reliable test).
          2. we have supplies of RATs in NZ and the government is buying more
          3. if/when we get to the point of needing to use them, we can.
          4. we're not there yet
          5. there are limited supplies, it makes more sense to keep them for when they're really needed.

          I'm guessing some of that. But it's been reported that we do have supplies in NZ, and we know that people can currently get them on an as needed basis eg for travel.

          I've not seen anything to suggest that the government won't use them for general testing if/when omicron is becoming widespread. Have you?

        • tsmithfield

          Just knowing how ineffective governments are at actually getting things done.

          I would feel much more comfortable if the tests were already distributed to be readily available at short notice.

          The other thing is that our current testing methods may not be any more effective if you think about it. The PCR tests are undoubtably more accurate, but that may not mean a lot if infected people aren't tested in the first place.

          People who are mildly ill may not bother going to get a PCR test due to the long queues that can develop from time to time, as we have all seen. And the fact that the tests are a bit icky and uncomfortable which is likely to put people off.

          Something that can be done quickly and easily in one's own home seems likely to have much better compliance, and may overall give a better result that what we currently do.

          The other thing is that testing at home means not going into the community with the virus compared to the PCR test that requires people to travel.

          • weka

            Are you saying that RATs should be freely available now?

            Or that they should be ready to be made freely available at short notice when we need them?

            If the latter, what makes you think they aren't?

            • tsmithfield

              I think they should be available now.

              It is obvious that Omicron will be here soon enough.

              Making the tests available isn't as simple as flicking a switch and it all happens. Having the tests available now will allow systems to be tested and problems ironed out. Waiting until the shit hits the fan means that there could suddenly be chaos with delivery of the tests as various problems are found.

              As mentioned above, I think there could be an overall net gain if people are easily able to test at home and avoid going into the community with the disease. Because results are much faster there is also a gain in how quickly people can isolate, and also I think compliance could well be higher because they are much more convenient.

              The accuracy of RAT tests is about 85%:, so not too bad.


              So, they are fairly good, and combined with the points above, perhaps they would be overall better than PCR tests when everything is taken into account.

              Remember, we are entering into a phase now where the presence of Covid is given and elimination isn’t really an option anymore. So, effectiveness trumps accuracy IMO.

          • Tony Veitch (not etc.)

            Just knowing how ineffective governments are at actually getting things done.

            Ah ha, your bias is showing!

      • Julian Richards 3.1.2

        I hope you keep the same idealology when omricon hits and is rampant. Will be interesting.

        • McFlock

          When a disease is "rampant", there is a need for more rapid and numerous tests to feel out any edges of the outbreaks and take some of the load off medical staff.

          When a disease is largely eliminated, the requirement is fewer tests but with more effective sensitivity, so as few cases as possible slip through the contact-tracing and isolation gaps.

          So, "disease rampant" and you have a sniffle in the morning that might just be hayfever, take a RAT and figure out if you should go to the gym that day.

          "Elimination conditions", if you have any reason for doubt, take a PCR and isolate until you get the results.

        • weka

          I hope you keep the same idealology when omricon hits and is rampant. Will be interesting.

          Why? Clearly different tests are needed at different times and for differing reasons. What McFlock said.

          • Julian Richards

            Because its a very basic preventative healthcare measure, that should be available now. Plain and simple.

            You guys can argue to the moon about when and how.

            So why are Vodafone using these tests in NZ for their call center staff? Why are the medical profession using these tests for their staff? Why is airnz using these tests for their staff? Why can all NZ'ers not have access, as some business now does?

            Oh that's right, it's different for them.

            • Julian Richards

              You also both continue to conventionally ignore the Ministry of Health position statement on covid19 infections and testing:


              [you have to provide a link when copy and pasting. Please post again with the appropriate link. – weka]

            • weka

              citation needed for all those claims.

              It's been very well explained in this thread,

              • quality RATs are in short supply globally
              • they're not as reliable as PCRs
              • they're better off being used once we have an outbreak
              • in the meantime there are clear rationales for using PCRs instead
              • using RATs now increases the risk of community transmission because of the number of false negatives, and people thinking they aren't infectious when they are and going out into the world

              In the face of that,

              Because its a very basic preventative healthcare measure, that should be available now. Plain and simple.

              Why? Obviously you want them available, but I'm not seeing a rationale, especially one that outweighs the above. Most places in NZ don't even have covid in the community.

              • julian richards

                So you're good with business having access to these tests right now (AIRNZ, Vodafone, GP's etc etc) and not the general public. Very odd. Why are you OK with big business in NZ having access to these tests whilst the general public is banned??

                Of course a preventative healthcare measure has a role in the community right now. Of anyone, I would have thought you would understand and support preventative healthcare! What a rediculous position to hold @weka and why you fight against this is extremely perplexing.

                And yes my family would like access to these tests to help protect a very ill family member. A simple quick test.

                • weka

                  don't put words in my mouth. Adding this to the educational ban warning above. If you want to know what I am good with, ask. But don't even manipulate my comments to further your own agenda.

                  • Julian Richards

                    I did ask- "So you're good with business having access to these tests right now (AIRNZ, Vodafone, GP's etc etc) and not the general public. Very odd. Why are you OK with big business in NZ having access to these tests whilst the general public is banned??"

                    Are you OK with this, is this acceptable?

                    • weka

                      That's a bullshit argument technique that tries to position someone into a particular place. If you want to ask what I think, ask what I think about vodafone whatever, don't start with the asumption of what what I am good with.

                      beyond that, I still have no idea what you are on about. I asked for citations, you ignored that, and now you want an opinion from me on something that has no substance other than your reckons. Nope.

                • weka

                  more perplexing is your inability to understand the counter arguments and address them.

                  I asked for evidence of your claims, you didn't provide any, I'm not going to bother responding to your random reckons in the absence of evidence.

                  • Julian Richards

                    I provided the links as evidence of the direct qoutes from the Ministry of Health.

                    And you've kept them deleted?

                    From the Ministry of Health document sent to all NZ Medical professionals, linked to multiple times above. :

                    “Rapid Antigen Tests are less sensitive than RT-PCR but have been shown to accurately identify most
                    infectious individuals”.

                    “When there is high COVID-19 vaccine coverage (i.e., above 80 percent of eligible people are fully
                    vaccinated), transmission is more likely to occur from a vaccinated than an unvaccinated individual.”

                    “Developing a separate pathway for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will not prevent the risk of
                    inadvertently seeing an infectious person (regardless of vaccination status)”

                    “Testing of individuals for COVID-19 can provide a high degree of reassurance that an individual does not have
                    active infection.”

                    “Asymptomatic infection is the issue, not the vaccination status of the patient.”

                    • weka

                      And you've kept them deleted?

                      You're still not getting. The onus is on YOU to do the work, not on me. I'm giving you a lot of guidance here on what YOU can do to fit in with how things work, and you still think I'm going to run around fixing your arguments? There's no easy way for me to make the deleted part visible again, and I see no reason to spend any more of my time on this. It's up to you now.

                    • Julian Richards []

                      Thanks @weka 👍

                      Now the links are provided and direct qoutes from these links. Do you think its good for big private companies to currently have access to rapid antigen tests whilst the gen public is banned, considering the direct qoutes provided from the Ministry of Health?

                    • Julian Richards []

                      As I explained l…. They blocked public access! Its not broken, its blocked.

                      I then provided the link to the leaked doc.

                      I then provided the link to the altered version after it was leaked.

                      I then provided evidence of this in a further link questioning why it was altered after it was leaked.

                      You're still refusing to answer the question, again as it seems to go against your narrative that you've continued to push.

                      [one day ban for wasting my moderator time – weka]

                    • Julian Richards []

                      Mate, I had respect for TS for the longest time (had read long before commenting), but your childish ban, foul language and refusal to engage in the question postured shows how you've shifted. See ya.

                    • weka

                      As I explained l…. They blocked public access! Its not broken, its blocked.

                      I then provided the link to the leaked doc.

                      I then provided the link to the altered version after it was leaked.

                      I then provided evidence of this in a further link questioning why it was altered after it was leaked.

                      You're still refusing to answer the question, again as it seems to go against your narrative that you've continued to push.

                      Next time. Put it all in one comment. And if you run the same argument a week later, you have to put it up all again. Or link back to your original comment. SO WE KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT.

                      Now, I was just about to post and say that the reason I've spent so much time on this this morning is because we want opposing views here. So it irks to see you now accusing me of not wanting that.

                      The purpose of the site is to publish posts, and to invite robust debate. But those opposing views have to be presented in a competent way.

                      I've given you a lot of guidelines here on how to do that, my suggestion is to take some time to look at what I am saying and get on board with how it works. When you come back and have something to say, put up a comment, your own views, back them up with evidence, quotes and links. Watch what other people are doing, and what moderators are saying.

                      Again, we want robust debate here and that depends on people putting up opposing views in ways that are easy to understand and respond to. The onus is on the person making the argument and counter argument. You have the potential to be a good commenter here, you just need to up your game around the how.

                    • weka

                      mod note.

                    • weka

                      Also, in the time I've spent on moderating you this morning, I could have a post nearly ready to put up. You can imagine how happy I am about that.

    • Bearded Git 3.2

      tsmith….are you really putting forward the UK as a model to follow in relation to controlling Covid. You must be kidding.

      • tsmithfield 3.2.1

        Yes, they got into this mess because their response was hopeless at the start.

        However, since then, they have had plenty of practice at dealing with Covid. So, there is a lot we can learn from them.

        • Bearded Git

          The article I shared earlier in Open Mike on TS today says that 97-98% of people in the UK show evidence of having had Covid. Incredible.

          • Tricledrown

            So thousands dying every day is OK. Hospitals over run Doctors and Nurses dying medical staff burnt out and leaving.

            Boris's comment let the bodies pile up.

            The tories have bungled the whole response now are removing mask wearing.

            Dumb and Dumber comes to mind.

            Then looking at the excess death rate in the UK will be interesting.

            Tsmithfield what planet are you on.

    • Hanswurst 3.3

      Here in Germany, we have testing centres with RATs (at least in the small-to-mid-sized city where I live) at a density of every couple of blocks or greater in town and the inner suburbs. Results are delivered after 15 – 20 min., variously as a print-out, via email or for presentation in an app. They are free for any individual, nominally on a daily basis (I managed to get my wires crossed one day and had myself tested twice; long story – well, short but very boring. No questions were asked). Some institutions – schools, for instance – also do their own testing. Anyone returning positive RAT result is required to undergo a PCR test, and isolate themselves forthwith, pending the result of the latter, which is nominally guaranteed within 48 hours, but in practice can take a fraction longer (or so it would seem).

      • weka 3.3.1

        what happens after a positive PCR test?

        • Hanswurst

          Self-isolation for seven days, assuming one has been without symptoms for at least 48 hours and returned a negative test, otherwise for 10 days (also assuming no symptoms for 48 hours). The same applies to close contacts (persons who were in contact with the infected person within 48 hours prior to the positive test or the onset of symptoms, whichever came first). That is the standard procedure, but one is legally obliged to inform the health department immediately on receiving a positive PCR result, and everybody affected is compelled to follow their instructions – or to challenge them legally, but in practice, of course, no legal challenge is going to be resolved before the 10 days are up.

      • Ed1 3.3.2

        That does seem a good arrangement – I do not have a link but the accuracy of self-administered tests has been questioned in the past – people may tend to see the result they want. to see. Small limited contact facilities do however still involve some public exposure; on the plus side they also ensure that testing results can be advised to central databases.

        • Hanswurst

          All of the testing facilities that I can think of within a couple of minutes' walking distance of my place (that's six of them) are outdoor facilities where the tests are administered through a street-facing window, usually from tents or other temporary structures. Because of their sheer numbers and long opening hours, there is usually also minimal queueing, so the risk of infection is heavily minimised.

          They are not saved to a central database, and there is zero chance of that happening, since Germany, for reasons that are probably obvious, is generally orders of magnitude more paranoid about privacy than New Zealand. I imagine places like Holland would be much more keen on that sort of data integration. The advantage of the official tests is that it reduces the likelihood of people's falsely claiming to have had themselves tested.

  4. Blazer 4

    An interesting test you can conduct to see how effective the mask you are wearing is=flick a lighter or light a match and see if you can blow it out through the mask.

    If you can=as much use as an ashtray on a….. motorbike.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      When you blow outward – all of the air you expel leaves through your mask – any mask.

      In order to blow out a match or lighter you will have to purse your lips and actively direct your breath in a narrow jet. If you doubt this, try extinguishing the flame with your mouth wide open. The presence of a mask however will act as a diffuser, breaking up the narrow jet leaving your lips and making it almost impossible to blow out the flame at any distance.

      This is probably the dominant action of masks, they prevent jets of fine droplets being expelled beyond your personal 1.5m social distancing and arriving in concentration near another person's face.

      But given how tiny virus's are compared to the filter pores in any mask, it's a lot more debatable about how effective masks are as filters in the sense most people are thinking of them.

    • barry 4.2

      A mask may not stop the virus passing through, but it may stop aerosols being created.

      • McFlock 4.2.1

        Some uk anti-maskers reckoned a mask was like trying to contain a fart with your pants.

        Someone else linked to a study that demonstrated that while pants might not contain the smell, they do stop a lot of the bacteria-laden aerosols released by said fart, lol

        Can't remember where I originally saw it, but this is the sort of thing.

      • Tricledrown 4.2.2

        N95 and kn95 masks have chemicals in the fabric to repel and nuetralize airborne partials plus they are built to keep out very fine particals.

        If worn properly they will last for 25hrs of use.

        Ffs can we have a fact checker to put out correct information.

        The ant vaxxers keep pushing misthruths misinformation.

        Why would medical staff use kn95 masks if they didn't work .Our health system would have collapsed by now.

  5. DS 5

    Honestly, Red Light would not be enough to stop Omicron if it got out (I'm not overly worried about this MIQ worker). We need a nationwide lockdown.

  6. Koff 6

    Interesting series of Qs and As about Omicron (link below). The real life data about this variant's severity is hard to nail down because most people in countries where data is being collected have been vaccinated, if it is compared to previous variant waves. One salient point is that if Omicron is half as severe as Delta and Delta is twice as severe as Alpha, which makes Omicron still potentially more severe than the earlier variants…. to the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated or those with co-morbidities anyway.

    • RedLogix 6.1

      Another comparison.

      The charts below show one way to do this. They visualize the main COVID metrics relative to the peak of the last wave before the population was widely vaccinated. In this representation of the data, if confirmed cases increase but hospitalizations and deaths increase to a lesser extent, it will mean that the many reported cases are leading to fewer severe forms of the disease, and fewer deaths.

    • adam 6.2

      Wow a few things wrong with you comment, each variant so far has got more transmittable, but less severe. Which is line with how Sars-1 acted historically.

      The big problem has been the 40 odd years of deconstruction/smashing of the public health sector, by government after government with the last two being really bad. It just can't handle a pandemic.

      At this point I think the public health system can't even handle this becoming one more endemic disease. Which is where their looks like it's going to end up.

      • barry 6.2.1

        Rubbish, Delta was both more infectious and more severe. It behaved differently due to the large number of people with antibodies when it hit.

        SARS-1 disappeared before it had a chance to mutate significantly.

        • adam

          I think you may have to read the WHO reports on Sars. The out break in the middle east makes very interesting reading.

          As for your semantics comment, the impact of Delta was less severe. I'm not seeing any reporting otherwise, are you?

  7. adam 7

    Boosters are not a black and white fix weka.

    My opinion is long term, just not good practice and not going to work.

    We should be looking at other options, like early treatment and isolation in flair ups for people in the high risk group. We are fast moving to this being just one more endemic disease we have to learn to live with.

    That said, not sure we can under this economic model, to many vested interests wanting a quick buck. And they got fear, the media, and our pollies in their back pocket – to make sure they get that quick buck

    • weka 7.1

      Agree with much of that adam. I don't see the boosters as a black and white fix. More like an imperfect tool that we have in front of us right now that we can use alongside many others. An important one though.

      I assume the public health thought is that eventually there will be a more effective vaccine that needs updating maybe once a year.

      We are fast moving to this being just one more endemic disease we have to learn to live with.

      I see little reason for NZ to shift radically from its current approaches while we are still so successful at harm minimisation. This doesn't ignore the harm being done by the response itself, but there are many things there we could improve without throwing out the central premise. We could be looking after people much better at the social and economic level, but as we know we should be doing that anyway and haven't been pre-covid.

      Omicron may or may not force our hand, time will tell. Its possible that we will adapt and a new response will emerge that is still inline with the current kaupapa.

      I agree that it's likely we will eventually settle into a pattern of endemic viral infection, probably with peaks and waves, and if we get lucky it will by then be actually mild. I don't think we are there yet, it's pretty clear from medical and modelling people that much harm is being caused by omicron. Some places may end up being ok and others not, there is a lot to learn there still.

      We should be looking at other options, like early treatment and isolation in flair ups for people in the high risk group

      Are you suggesting that vulnerable people should be isolated within society once covid is endemic here?

      • adam 7.1.1

        Are you suggesting that vulnerable people should be isolated within society once covid is endemic here?

        Yes, in flair up. And their choice to go into isolation or not. I also think we may need to change how we do best practice with cancer treatment and such.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    Something that should be done is to mandate the use of surgical standard masks instead of the cloth ones that so many people wear. Surgical masks are just so much more effective at preventing virus spread.

    IMO allowing the use of cloth masks reduces the whole exercise down to the level of virtue signalling, in that it is a feel good thing that people do, without it actually achieving much.

    • Puckish Rogue 8.1

      Its like the old 'duck and cover', pretend something helps and it helps keep the population compliant

      • tsmithfield 8.1.1

        Exactly. And the change I suggest could be done without stuffing up anyone's lives any further, other than for the fact the surgical masks look a bit more fugly than the designer cloth ones.

    • Jimmy 8.2

      Cloth masks and homemade masks have always been a complete waste of time. God only knows why Jacinda put out that video of making a mask at home. Her advisers really should have not let her do that.

      • barry 8.2.1

        Bullshit. If 2 people are wearing cloth masks then the odds of the virus passing between them are reduced a lot.

        Surgical masks are better, but if you want to be protected from an unmasked person sneezing in your face then you need an N95 mask and eye protection.

        It is about some protection versus being bulletproof.

        • tsmithfield

          The surgical masks are more than twice as effective to the cloth ones according to the link I posted.

          So, what is the problem with making the mandatory? It should be possible for those making the cloth ones for the fashion-conscious to include a surgical liner inside the mask so it complies with requirements.

          This is a very simple step that would have a real effect on reducing transmission, which is likely to be even more important when Omicron arrives.

        • Jimmy

          Cloth mask – think of a chicken wire fence trying to keep out mosquitos.
          N95 are the way to go or a surgical mask if not. Cloth a complete waste of time – but they do look good!

          • tsmithfield

            Agreed. The cloth masks are little more than virtue signaling by those who want to appear that they are doing something.

    • McFlock 8.3

      Worst case, it's like self defense training with rubber weapons. The reflexes are honed.

      95% might be able to strangle an outbreak by itself (in conjunction with vaccines etc), but even knocking infections down almost 40% instead of 95% can help tracers address a small outbreak. As long as transmission isn't so fast the contacts expand faster than the ability to count them.

  9. barry 9

    When Omicron gets out we will all get it (although not all will have symptoms). We could have a short sharp spike (like the UK) where it all happens in 6-8 weeks – but that means 20% off work at any one time; or we can slow it down to spread it over 3-4 months. This still means a lot of people off work, but more manageable. Either case will result in a lot of unvaccinated people getting sick and dying.

    Ideally we would want it over with before winter, but we want to delay it a bit to give people time to get boosters. So March – June.

    Then we get to find out what happens afterwards. Will Delta come back? Will there be another variant? Will Omicron persist as a seasonal (nasty) cold?

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