There are at least 16 Omicron cases who have been outside in the community and the highly infectious variant of Covid-19 is now circulating in Auckland and possibly in the Nelson area, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
The most concerning group of Omicron cases – which have plunged the whole of New Zealand into the red traffic light setting from midnight tonight – are nine people in Motueka. Another person from the same household tested positive for Covid-19 late yesterday.
The nine people attended an Auckland wedding on January 13, and also attended a funeral, and went to an amusement park and the Sky Tower in the central city. Some of these events had well over 100 people, Ardern said.
The group have been linked to an Air NZ flight and crew member who also tested positive to the virus.
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.
Because officials couldn't link the index case to the border, New Zealand would be moved into the red traffic light setting tonight, Ardern said.
Health officials were working to understand how the cases became infected, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.
"If you are symptomatic, please seek a test," he said,
"If you don't have symptoms, there is no need to get a test at this point," Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield said in regards to the nine cases in Motueka, the most important thing was that the first person infected had got tested.
"We are really grateful for that," he said,
There will people outside of Nelson and Auckland who have travelled to those regions and were encouraged to get tested, he said.
Bloomfield said there were five domestic flights the cases were on while infectious.
A total of 150 people on those flights have been contacted and those efforts continued this morning, Bloomfield said.
The flights are:
• Flight NZ 5083 from Auckland to Nelson at 5.20pm on January 16.
• Flight NZ 5080 from Nelson to Auckland at 4pm on January 19.
• Flight NZ 5077 from Auckland to Nelson at 2pm on January 19.
• Flight NZ 5049 from Auckland to New Plymouth at 7.50pm on January 19.
• Flight NZ 5042 from New Plymouth to Auckland at 1.50pm on January 20.
Other Omicron cases
Other cases with Omicron include two infected Auckland Airport workers, an MIQ staffer and two close contacts.
Another Omicron-positive person spent two days moving about in Palmerston North while potentially infectious after being discharged from a managed isolation facility.
The ministry yesterday confirmed a second Auckland Airport worker had the Omicron variant.
The worker has potential links to Covid-positive travellers in managed isolation in Rotorua and Auckland.
Thirty-two contacts have been identified with one household member testing positive and 16 others returning a negative result.
Another Omicron case was at the Ara-Tai Cafe in Half Moon Bay in east Auckland where 48 of the 78 contacts identified have returned negative results.