5 Jan 2022

Covid-19: Daily cases in MIQ outnumber those in the community

2:34 pm on 5 January 2022

The number of cases picked up at the border - 23 - is greater than the number in the community in Aotearoa today.

Hands in medical gloves holding COVID-19 swab. Test tube for taking patient sample, PCR DNA testing protocol process. Nasal swab laboratory test in hospital lab.

Photo: 123RF

It is the first time in months the cases in managed isolation are greater than the number detected in the community which was down to 17 today.

The Ministry of Health said that while whole genome sequencing of the MIQ cases is expected soon, the likelihood is that Omicron will continue to be the most prevalent variant at the country's borders.

The border cases have travelled to New Zealand from Australia (11), the US (7), India (2) Malaysia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia (all 1 each).

"This variant of Covid-19 continues to be having a significant impact globally, so it is not unexpected to see an increase of Omicron cases at the border," the ministry said its statement.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker warned last week New Zealand must look at ways to reduce the number of Covid-19 infected travellers arriving into New Zealand as cases at the border increase.

By Saturday the total number of Omicron cases at the border stood at 90.

Baker said he was extremely concerned by the number of Covid-19 cases arriving at the border.

"We know that every time we have a case that's in MIQ, that increases the risk of border failure. MIQ is well run but it is unfortunately a numbers game, that there is a human factor, we know this virus is so infectious that there are opportunities for it to escape," Professor Baker said.

Today the US has recorded more than one million new Covid-19 cases, as officials warn the peak of the Omicron surge is still to come.

A record 1,080,211 cases were reported on Monday - the highest one-day tally of new cases anywhere in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Omicron variant accounts for the majority of cases in the US.

It is the highest number of cases ever reported anywhere in the world since the pandemic began two years ago.

The top US pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci has said the country is facing "almost a vertical increase" in cases.

He said the peak may be weeks away.

While rates of death and hospital admissions in the US have been far lower in recent weeks than in previous infection spikes, the number of hospital admissions has been steadily rising.

But Dr Fauci said the example of South Africa - where Omicron first spread rapidly before subsiding - offered some hope.

In Australia, New South Wales has recorded more than 35,000 cases today as well as eight deaths, while there are more than 17,600 new cases and 11 deaths in Victoria.

The escalation in case numbers in recent days is putting huge pressure on hospitals and testing systems across the country.

Residents waiting in a queue at St Vincent Hospital;s Covid-19 testing centre at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia on 15 December, 2021.

People queue to be tested outside St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. (file pic) Photo: Mohammad Farooq / AFP

In England Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes England can "ride out" the current wave of Covid-19 without further restrictions - despite daily Covid-19 case figures exceeding 200,000 for the first time.

He said this was a moment for caution but also that the UK's position was different from other waves, as Omicron is milder than previous variants and booster vaccines have been rolled out.

He acknowledged the weeks ahead would be "challenging" with "some services disrupted by staff absences". But he promised to "fortify" the National Health Service to withstand pressure.

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