17 Dec 2021

Covid-19: Three more Omicron cases reported in MIQ

7:29 pm on 17 December 2021

Three new cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant have been reported in New Zealand's managed isolation system, with none of them connected to yesterday's first case.

Commercial airline. Passenger plane landing at airport with beautiful sunset  sky and clouds. Arrival flight. Airplane flying in a line for landing. Aircraft open light in the evening flight.

Photo: 123rf.com

The first case was recorded in a Christchurch MIQ facility yesterday.

This evening the Ministry of Health confirmed in a statement that whole genome sequencing has detected three further Omicron cases in recent international arrivals.

"The cases arrived in Auckland from Dubai on December 11 and were transported to a Rotorua MIQ on a bus chartered for international arrivals."

The Ministry said one case travelled to Dubai from London, the second case travelled to Dubai from Spain and the third travelled to Dubai from Nigeria. All three then boarded the same flight to Auckland.

The cases are now isolating at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland.

All passengers on the flights with the cases will now have to complete all 10 days at a managed isolation facility, instead of spending the last three days of their isolation period in self-isolation.

The Ministry said the detection of further Omicron cases was not surprising given its rapid spread around the world.

"Our health and MIQ teams around the country have been planning for Omicron cases at the border, and will continue to manage all arrivals cautiously.

"Our border settings means we are well placed to manage Omicron cases with 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."

Further updates will be provided tomorrow.

Meanwhile, two passengers who travelled to New Zealand with the country's first Omicron case have tested positive for Covid-19, although one of the cases is the Delta variant.

All three people have been moved to a managed quarantine facility.

The first case reported yesterday arrived in New Zealand on a flight from Germany via Dubai that landed in Auckland before they transferred to Christchurch on a chartered domestic flight.

Dr Bloomfield spoke to ministers today about speeding up the vaccine booster rollout.

Currently a booster dose is offered six months after someone has received their second dose of the vaccine, however, some health experts are calling for the booster to be available more quickly.

"We want to be going into winter next year with the highest possible level of population immunity and so far in rolling out our booster programme we've seen at that six month interval, about half of people are booking in and having it at six months and it may well be we need a shorter interval to make sure people do get it on time," he told Morning Report today.

He also said that the single case of Omicron did not mean it would get into the community.

"It's by no means inevitable and we'll continue to do everything we can to make sure we keep Omicron either out of the country or at the border if it does come on a flight."

High vaccination rates, testing, contract tracing and isolation on top of other measures New Zealand had in place would continue to serve us well, he said.

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