There are 24 new community cases of Covid-19 as the highly-infectious Omicron is confirmed in the community, the Ministry of Health says.
As announced this morning, the nine Covid-19 cases reported yesterday in the Nelson/Tasman region have now been confirmed as the Omicron variant, and a further case from the same household was confirmed late yesterday.
They are all from a single family who flew to Auckland on 13 January to attend a family event and other events on the weekend of January 15 and 16. Initial estimates suggest there were at least 100 people at these events.
An aged care worker from Summerset by the Park Rest Home in Flat Bush in Auckland has tested positive for Covid.
They are associated with the family from Nelson who caught Omicron. Whole-genome sequencing is being carried out for this worked but the Ministry of Health is treating them as a contact of an Omicron case.
They are fully vaccinated.
The rest home closed to visitors and staff and residents are being tested.
Anyone who has visited the rest home since Friday, January 21 and has symptoms of Covid is asked to isolate and get a test as soon as possible.
Initial locations of interest for Omicron have been identified across Auckland and Nelson/Tasman, and will be published as they are confirmed on the Ministry of Health website.
A Section 70 notice is in place which means anyone who was at a location of interest at the relevant time must follow the testing and isolation instructions. There is a penalty of up to $4000 or imprisonment up to six months for failure to comply.
The Ministry says anyone who is unwell will need to stay home and get a test - still a nasopharyngeal swab at this stage. If people need to isolate, they will receive advice and support if need. Positive cases must isolate for 14 days and close contacts must isolate for 10 days.
High demand is expected at testing stations, so officials want to ensure the most urgent tests are done first. That means anyone with symptoms, or who has been to a location of interest at the relevant time, should isolate immediately and get tested promptly.
Sixteen of the new community cases are in Auckland, two in Northland, one in Waikato and five in Lakes.
There is one new case in the Waikato today, in Hamilton. They are linked to previous cases. Fifteen people are isolating at home in the Waikato.
All five new Lakes DHB cases are in Rotorua. Two of them have not yet been linked to known cases. All are in isolation or MIQ.
There are 47 new cases at the border.
There are eight people in hospital in New Zealand with Covid - five in North Shore Hospital, two in Auckland Hospital and one in Middlemore. There is no-one in ICU with the virus - it is the first time that ICU has been empty of Covid cases since August 2021.
In Northland, there have been two new cases in the Kaitaia area. Both are household members of an existing case.
Two cases were also reported last night and will be added to the case numbers tomorrow. One of those, in Whangārei, was a close contact of a known case and was already in isolation. But the second case was in the Kaitaia area and a link is not yet known. Whole genome sequencing is underway for the second person.
In Auckland there 682 people isolating at home, including 154 cases.
Latest jab data
Yesterday 695 people got their first dose of the vaccine and 1407 got their second. Another 144 people had their third primary dose and 41,934 people got booster doses.
Among eligible Māori 89 per cent have had a first dose and 84 per cent their second. Pacific peoples have hit 96 per cent first doses and 93 per cent second doses.
For the total over-12 population, 95 per cent have had a first dose and 93 per cent have had their second.
Moving to red
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed there were multiple unlinked cases of the Omicron variant in the community and the whole country would move into the red traffic light setting from midnight tonight.
Until now, almost all cases in the current outbreak have been Delta, and case numbers have been trending down over January.
However, the number of people at the border testing positive for Omicron has swelled into the hundreds in a matter of weeks.
Experts have been warning people to get ready for the highly contagious variant to spill over into the community eventually.
They say we will not be able to stop Omicron but we can slow it down with the right public health measures.
Omicron is now circulating in Auckland and possibly Nelson, if not further, Ardern told media today at an unscheduled 11am press conference.
She announced that from midnight the whole of Aotearoa would move back into the red traffic light setting, which brings tighter capacity limits, more restrictions for unvaccinated people and other public health measures.
The red phase of the Covid-19 protection framework is used when it is deemed necessary to protect vulnerable communities and the health system from being overwhelmed.
Nine people in Nelson have tested positive for the Omicron variant, and an Air NZ crew member who was on their Auckland-Nelson flight has also tested positive for Omicron.
It was initially thought the group caught Covid from the air crew member, however it is now believed the air crew member caught it from the group.
The group from Nelson attended a wedding in Auckland on January 13, as well as a funeral, an amusement park and the Sky Tower.
They flew back to Nelson on January 16, on the flight shared by the air crew member. He then worked on a further four flights, which are all now locations of interest.
Those locations of interest are being added to the Ministry of Health website.
Those in the group who were eligible had been vaccinated, according to the Prime Minister.