There are 49 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today as Auckland enters the orange traffic light setting ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations.
There are no new Omicron cases in the community today. Ten Omicron cases have been identified in MIQ, taking the total number of border cases of the variant to 88.
And the Ministry of Health announced that 90 per cent of eligible Pacific people nationwide are now fully vaccinated: a total of 258,713 have had their second dose.
The two cases of Omicron community exposure in Auckland this week - a British DJ and an Air NZ crew member - have both been declared as having "low risk" of further transmission by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Of today's community cases, 22 are in Auckland, three are in the Waikato, 19 are in the Bay of Plenty, four are in the Lakes district and one is in Hawke's Bay.
There are 46 people in hospital with Covid-19, including eight in ICU.
Health and welfare providers are now supporting 1257 people to isolate at home in Auckland - including 333 cases.
Details of the exact movements of a British DJ infected with Omicron who spent two days in the Auckland community going to bars and restaurants and Waiheke Island are yet to be fully clarified, but the Ministry of Health has said the risk of community transmission from the DJ is low.
"Regarding the Omicron border case announced on Wednesday, microbiologists have advised that the risk of transmission from this case is low," the MOH said today.
Contact tracing has now identified 88 close contacts of the case. 80 of these contacts have been reached, all are isolating and have been tested. The MOH said their contact tracers are "working urgently" to contact the remaining eight close contacts.
Six close contacts who attended the Hidden Lakes festival have all tested negative for Covid-19 as well. "This means there was no public health risk associated with this event," the ministry said.
Second Omicron case
Yesterday, a second case of the Omicron Covid-19 strain in the community was detected after an Air New Zealand crew member tested positive for the more infectious variant on December 27.
Eight close contacts of that crew member are now isolating after the person arrived in Auckland from Sydney on Christmas Eve.
All eight close contacts of the Air New Zealand flight crew member have returned negative tests.
"There are no locations of interest associated with this case and therefore the risk to the public has been determined to be low", the MOH said today.
The Ministry of Health is now assuming all recent arrivals to New Zealand who test positive for Covid-19 have the Omicron variant, and will prioritise whole genome sequencing for any positive cases in border-related workers and their families.
That prioritisation will mean samples for border-related workers and their families will be tested within 12 hours of being received by the laboratory.
"This is where there is the greatest risk of Omicron entering the community. This new approach will help to ensure the risk of any community transmission of Omicron remains low," the MOH said.
Today's update comes as Auckland prepares for large New Year's Eve crowds to be allowed to gather for the first time since August after moving from the red to orange setting of the Covid-19 framework at midnight last night.
Taupō, Rotorua lakes districts, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts also moved to orange at midnight last night, leaving just Northland in red.
This will be the final traffic light shift this year before Cabinet reviews the settings in mid-January.
In the orange setting, venues such as bars, restaurants and cafes which enforce vaccine pass requirements can lift previous limits on crowd sizes, and do not need to enforce seating - something which will allow for dancing the night away on New Year's Eve.
The Ministry of Health has announced today that 90 per cent of eligible Pacific peoples nationwide are now fully vaccinated, with a total of 258,713 having had their second dose.
Hawke's Bay DHB has also reached the milestone of 90 per cent of the eligible population being fully vaccinated.
More than 300,000 people have also received a booster shot - which is about 70 per cent of those eligible to get their booster six months since their second dose.
DJ Dimension and Omicron scare
DJ Dimension, real name Robert Etheridge, had travelled to New Zealand on December 16 to perform at the Rhythm & Alps festival.
The British DJ spent seven days in MIQ, before then transferring to an approved beachside location for MIQ.
Etheridge ended his stint and spent two days in the community – including going to Auckland bars and restaurants and Waiheke Island – before he got the results of his day-nine Covid test; the one which would come back as positive.
Testing is available on Waiheke Island today.
Anyone who attended the Hidden Lakes Festival - where a close contact of the DJ performed - and is concerned should ring Healthline, the ministry said.
Only a small number of contacts of this case attended the festival, all of whom had negative tests beforehand.
At this stage, there are no known contacts or cases associated with Rhythm & Alps festival.
A further interview with the DJ is underway to determine additional locations of interest, the ministry said.
The ministry said Etheridge arrived on December 16 and as required under the previous regime for international arrivals, completed a full 10 days in isolation; seven days in a managed isolation facility and three days in self-isolation.
Etheridge was tested on day nine but did not wait for a negative test result before self-releasing.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government asks people to stay in their bubbles while self-isolating.
"That hasn't been the case here and that's very disappointing," Hipkins said.
"It is of course a reminder that while many of us feel like we're over Covid, Covid-19 is not over with us."
Etheridge has travelled to New Zealand on a critical purpose visa three times since March 2020.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said New Zealand's current Covid settings are working well for the Delta variant - but will need to be adapted if Omicron begins to spread in New Zealand.
"At the moment our settings are not tuned to Omicron at all and we will have to do a rapid review of the pandemic policy settings before Omicron spreads widely in New Zealand," Baker said.
"Basically, if Omicron is in the community we could have a real problem because it will spread really rapidly. And the main reason it spreads really rapidly is this variant seems to be both inherently more infectious - it's probably due to producing larger viral load in parts of the airways - and secondly it evades some of the immunity, particularly the antibody immunity generated by the Pfizer vaccine.
"So it would spread really rapidly if was established in Auckland from any source. It is going to spread widely and it's going to be very hard to contain."
However, Baker said "it's still the big three measures to stop Omicron like other strains to limit spread of the virus".
"Get vaccinated and boosters, coming forward if you have symptoms, and taking measures to stop spread indoors including wearing masks and proper ventilation. The same three principals apply," he said.