New Zealand is rolling the "roulette wheel in the casino of Covid" each day as to whether the highly-infectious Omicron variant leaks out of managed isolation and into the community, an expert says.
There have been a total of 22 cases of Omicron picked up at the border so far, with genome sequencing detecting a further nine in international arrivals on Monday.
All but one of the Omicron cases to date remain in managed isolation, except for the one that recovered and has been released.
Cabinet expected to meet virtually this afternoon to discuss ways of countering the newest Covid variant.
Today's community cases
There are 69 community Covid cases today.
There are 59 in Auckland, seven in Waikato, two in the Bay of Plenty and one in Taranaki.
There are 62 cases in hospital today, seven of which are in ICU or HDU.
Of the hospitalised cases, 11 are in North Shore, 31 in Auckland, 15 in Middlemore, two in Waikato and three in Tauranga. Their average age is 52.
Thirty-one of the hospitalised cases in Auckland are unvaccinated or not eligible, six are partially immunised, 15 are fully vaccinated, and five are unknown.
Yesterday there were 784 first doses administered, 3360 second doses, 94 third primary doses and 2988 booster doses.
To date there have been 3,964,319 first doses administered, covering 94 per cent of the eligible population. There have been 3,801,569 second doses - meaning 90 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
MidCentral DHB has become the ninth to reach the 90 per cent vaccination milestone for its eligible population.
Nelson Marlborough has 550 doses to go to reach this target. South Canterbury has 280, Hawkes Bay 1990 and Waikato 4126.
There have been 11,587 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, 4,810 of them in Auckland. The rolling 7 day average across the country is 21,812.
Wairarapa DHB is 12 doses away from having 90 per cent of its Māori population partially vaccinated. Southern DHB is 74 doses away from this goal and Waitemata 263 doses.
For the Pacific population, Whanganui DHB has 56 doses to go to reach 90 per cent partially vaccinated - joining all other DHBs to reach this target. MidCentral DHB has just 19 doses to go to reach 90% of its Pacific population being fully vaccinated, with Canterbury only 46 doses away, and Waikato with just 120 doses to go.
Covid-19 modelling experts told RNZ that the highly-transmissible Omicron variant poses a serious risk to a largely unrestricted summer.
More cases would keep arriving at the border, increasing the chance one would leak out into the community, Te Pūnaha Matatini complex systems researcher Dr Dion O'Neale said.
"At the moment most of those [MIQ] infections will be Omicron from now on, purely because Omicron is most of the cases in countries that people are coming back to New Zealand from.
"At some point, it does become a matter of time until that gets out into the community," O'Neale said.
Yesterday's statement said the government's health and MIQ teams had been carefully planning for Omicron cases at the border and were "cautiously" managing all arrivals.
"This includes isolation and testing requirements for all new arrivals, robust infection and prevention control and PPE measures at airports and MIQ facilities, and frequent surveillance testing of staff who have any contact with recent international returnees."
Passengers on flights with Omicron cases are also required to complete all 10 days at an MIQ facility, rather than spending the final three days in self-isolation at home.
But Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely says MIQ is not perfect, telling Newstalk ZB this the risk of Omicron getting into the community was now seen as very high.
Each day in New Zealand was a "roll of the roulette wheel in the casino of Covid".
Blakely said every time a new Omicron person was found in MIQ, there's a risk it's going to jump out.
He said even vaccinating all workers wasn't a great measure to prevent a person from carrying Omicron out.
Meanwhile Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) documents have revealed 25 people successfully escaped from an MIQ facility, and another 27 tried to, in the past two years.
Fourteen of those incidents happened during October, the same month in which more than 150 complaints were laid about things such as food, cleanliness and exercise.
The data, obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA), shows October was the worst month for absconders and complaints since MIQ was established in 2020.
Yesterday there were 56 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including six in intensive care or high dependency units.
Ten were in North Shore Hospital, 26 in Auckland, 15 in Middlemore, two in Waikato and three in Tauranga. The average age of the patients was 53.