20 Jan 2022

Covid-19: Auckland Airport worker confirmed as Omicron case

8:26 am on 20 January 2022

Genome sequencing has confirmed the Auckland Airport worker who tested positive for Covid-19 has the Omicron variant, the Ministry of Health says.

This photo taken on August 13, 2021 shows a laboratory technician wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) working on samples to be tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a Covid-19 testing facility in Yangzhou in China's eastern Jiangsu province.

Genome sequencing confirmed an Auckland Airport worker and a household contact of an MIQ worker with Covid-19 have the Omicron variant. Photo: AFP

A household contact of the MIQ worker who tested positive on Tuesday also has the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the ministry reported.

The ministry has published a new location of interest with one of the cases having visited a cafe in Half Moon Bay on Tuesday.

It said anyone seated inside the Ara-Tai Cafe at Half Moon Bay on 18 January from 12.30pm to 2.00pm was considered a close contact and must self-isolate and test immediately and on day 5 after exposure at the location of interest.

Customers seated outside during the same time are considered casual contacts and should self-monitor for 19 symptoms for 10 days, and if symptoms develop, get tested and stay at home until they receive a negative test result.

University of Otago epidemiologist professor Michael Baker said the Auckland Airport worker, the MIQ worker and household contact, along with an Air New Zealand crew member in December showed how easy it would be for Omicron to get across the border.

"A huge driver is the really large number of infected cases in New Zealand.

"We've never had such pressure on our borders."

There have been 370 Omicron Covid-19 cases detected at the border since 1 December and 32 of the Delta variant, a Ministry of Health update on Wednesday reported. The "vast majority" of 203 further border cases undergoing genome sequencing were likely to be of the Omicron variant, it said.

The worker at Auckland airport was double vaccinated and had had a booster dose. Their household contact has returned an initial negative test result.

"Vaccination and a booster does provide some protection against infection and infecting others, but this is an indication of just how tough it will be to keep Omicron out."

He said New Zealand should temporarily reduce the numbers of people coming into the country.

The decision to pause the next MIQ room releases for March and April would not help reduce the pressure this month and February, he said.

Baker repeated his call for a return to elements of the alert level system, such as working from and minimising indoor gatherings, to reduce the impact of the pandemic surge.

Yesterday three central Auckland nightclubs were listed as Covid-19 'close contact' locations of interest.

They are:

  • Family Bar and Club Auckland CBD (270 Karangahape Road) Saturday 15 January 9.30pm to Sunday 16 January 12am
  • Longroom Nightclub Grey Lynn (114 Ponsonby Road) Saturday 15 January 7pm to 9pm
  • AV Club Auckland CBD (38 Customs Street East) Friday 14 January 6pm to Saturday 15 January 5am
The Longroom bar in Ponsonby.

Longroom Bar and Nightclub in Grey Lynn was named as a location of interest on 19 January. Photo: Google Maps

The case of the MIQ worker's household contact was reported after 75 isolating close contacts already tested negative - and it comes with people surging to vaccination sites to make the most of paediatric and booster doses.

The MIQ worker's positive result had come as part of routine testing and was reported by the ministry on 15 January.

Two other household contacts are symptomatic but returned negative tests on Tuesday.

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