Omicron at second Auckland wedding; retirement home staff test negative

A new Covid vaccination centre at the corner of Gunton Dr and Tawhia Dr in Westgate, Auckland...
A new Covid vaccination centre at the corner of Gunton Dr and Tawhia Dr in Westgate, Auckland opens today. Photo: NZ Herald
An Omicron case has been reported at a second wedding in Auckland, sparking fresh fears of a long list of close contacts that will require testing.

The second wedding was held at Pukekohe Indian Hall and has been linked to an Omicron infected person.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed a person with Omicron visited the Pukekohe Indian Hall on January 16 between 6.45pm and 10.45pm.

The latest developments come as Cabinet meets for the first time today since the Prime Minister put the country into the red traffic light setting after confirming on Sunday that Omicron had spread into the community.

The Government is expected to provide more details tomorrow about its staged process to manage Omicron as modelling predicts case numbers could reach up to 50,000 a day in March.

A new vaccination centre also opens in Auckland's Westgate this morning to meet demand for boosters and child jabs.

However in good news today it has been confirmed that no other staff members or residents at the South Auckland retirement village where a kitchen worker had Omicron have so far tested positive.

The 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 from 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 was still waiting on a few other test results to come back today and on a few other decisions before determining its way forward, the email said.

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

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

All staff and residents underwent mandatory testing on Sunday and residents at the village have been confined to their rooms and apartments. Visitors have also been banned.

5000 air purifiers for schools

The Ministry of Education is also getting prepared for schools re-opening from next week and has ordered 5000 portable air cleaners.

The first 500 air cleaners will be in the country in March, but the remaining won't land until June - months after when the virus is expected to peak.

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

He said the government was doing the best it could to keep the pressure off the health system with lockdowns, mask wearing and taking a cautious approach.

Little said the health affects of Omicron were not as severe as Delta and the vast majority of people would look after themselves at home.

If pressure increased then things like elective surgeries would be put off to "keep people suffering the worse of Covid alive".

The Government was preparing for between 5000 and 50,000 cases a day which could result in hundreds of new hospitalisations each day.

Omicron to be 'very intense' outbreak in New Zealand

Otago University professor Michael Baker told RNZ the country still had a few weeks before this way going to be "a very intense outbreak in New Zealand".

Baker supported the Government's current approach of identifying every Omicron case and stamping out the lines of transmission while case numbers were small to delay the take-off of this outbreak.

But relaxing the 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 was about as short as it could go because the virus still had a long tail.

Close contacts currently have to isolate for 10 days, but Baker expected that to reduce too.

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

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

The hospital believes up to 25% of staff could be off at once during the Omicron outbreak.

Meanwhile more locations of interest are continuing to emerge in both Auckland and Motueka with The Vic Devonport and Countdown Motueka both being added to the list this morning.

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