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Covid-19 Omicron outbreak: Case in second wedding in Auckland, workers in Summerset retirement village test negative

New Zealand

January 24, 2022 10:06 p.m

Kiwis remain welcome in Cook Islands, Australia offers testing advice and Upper Hutt fires under control in latest New Zealand Herald headlines. Video / NZ Herald

An Omicron case was reported at a second wedding in Auckland, sparking new fears over a long list of close contacts requiring testing.

The second wedding took place at Pukekohe Indian Hall and has been linked to an Omicron-infected individual.

The Department of Health has confirmed that a person with omicron visited Pukekohe Indian Hall between 6:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. on January 16.

Recent Omicron locations include a liquor store in Papakura, a bakery in Manukau and two bus rides from Glenfield Mall to Albany Mall.

The latest developments come as the Cabinet meets today for the first time since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the country on the red light after confirming on Sunday that Omicron had been spreading in the community.

The government is expected to provide more details tomorrow on its phased process to manage Omicron, as modeling predicts case numbers could reach as high as 50,000 a day in March.

A new vaccination center will also open at Westgate in Auckland this morning to meet demand for booster shots and childhood vaccinations.

A new Covid vaccination center on the corner of Gunton Dr and Tawhia Dr in Westgate opens today.  Photo / Jed BradleyA new Covid vaccination center on the corner of Gunton Dr and Tawhia Dr in Westgate opens today. Photo / Jed Bradley

About 40 cars had been queuing for half an hour when the new center opened at 11am.

But in today’s good news, it was confirmed that no other staff or residents at the South Auckland seniors’ village, where a kitchen worker had Omicron, have so far tested positive.

Test results from Summerset by the park’s highest-risk staff, who were in the kitchen with the infected worker last week, have all come back negative, along with all other results linked to the village.

In an email to family members of residents yesterday afternoon, Summerset Village management said the negative test results were “great news”.

Management is still awaiting a few other test results, which would come back today, and a few other decisions before deciding how to proceed, the email said.

The village went into lockdown after a kitchen worker who attended the same New Lynn wedding as the Omicron-infected Nelson family tested positive.

Staff who had been in the kitchen with the worker last week while potentially contagious were quickly replaced by the independent catering company that manages it.

All staff and residents underwent mandatory tests on Sunday and residents of the village were confined to their rooms and apartments. Visitors were also banned.

5000 air purifiers for schools

The Department of Education is also preparing for schools to reopen from next week and has ordered 5,000 portable air purifiers.

The first 500 air purifiers will be in the country in March, but the rest won’t land until June – months after, when the virus is expected to peak.

Health Secretary Andrew Little told Newstalk ZB this morning that people had previously said the health system was going to be overwhelmed by Covid and that it had coped.

He said the government is doing its best to ease the burden on the healthcare system with lockdowns, mask-wearing and a cautious approach.

Little said Omicron’s health effects aren’t as severe as Delta’s, and that the vast majority of people would take care of themselves at home.

If the pressure mounted, things like elective surgeries would be postponed to “keep people suffering the worst from Covid alive”.

The government braced for between 5,000 and 50,000 cases a day, which could result in hundreds of new hospital admissions a day.

Omicron outbreak in New Zealand ‘very intense’

Otago University professor Michael Baker told RNZ the country still had a few weeks before a “very intense outbreak hit New Zealand”.

Baker supported the government’s current approach of identifying every Omicron case and eradicating the routes of transmission while case numbers were low in order to delay the start of this outbreak.

But relaxing isolation requirements was the right thing to do once it was everywhere, he said.

Baker said reducing the isolation period from 14 to seven days is as short as possible because the virus still has a long tail.

Close contacts are currently required to isolate for 10 days, but Baker expected that would reduce as well.

His warning that a five-day isolation period would not be long enough comes as senior doctors in Auckland are told they may have to return to work five days after testing positive for Covid-19.

According to RNZ, Auckland Hospital has also told staff they may be drafted into other roles if Omicron creates shortages.

The hospital estimates that up to 25 percent of staff could be immediately out of work during the Omicron outbreak.

Meanwhile, more places of interest are popping up in both Auckland and Motueka, with The Vic Devonport and Countdown Motueka both being added to the list this morning.

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