Timaru case shows variant making way south

Testing "strongly indicates" the traveller who arrived in Sydney last week before the latest...
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Omicron came a little bit closer to Otago and Southland yesterday after confirmation a Timaru person had tested positive to Covid-19.

However, that person appears to have not been present in their home town when they caught the new variant of the disease.

The Ministry of Health said that although the case had a Timaru address, they were in a managed isolation and quarantine facility in Christchurch.

"The case’s household contacts are all isolating and have so far tested negative," a spokesman said yesterday.

"Public health staff are not expecting any Timaru locations of interest arising from this case," the spokesman added.

One person was last night reported to be in hospital in Christchurch suffering from Covid-19.

There were eight active cases of the disease reported in the Canterbury DHB region.

While there were still only a handful of Covid cases in the South Island, a surge in positive tests in the North Island over the weekend suggested that the anticipated rapid rise in people falling foul of the highly transmissible disease was already getting under way.

On Saturday, a record 243 cases of Covid-19 were reported, the highest since the 222 reported on one day during last November’s outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid.

Yesterday, 208 cases were reported, a drop but still high enough to be of concern given that testing rates and hence positive cases tend to be lower during holiday weekends.

Health officials have been nervous that travellers during the Waitangi Day long weekend could fuel the spread of Omicron and have kept testing facilities open for anyone who thought they might be symptomatic.

"If you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, please get tested and self-isolate until you receive a negative test result," Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Michael Butchard said.

"The best way we can protect our communities is to follow public health guidance: wear a mask, practise social distancing, follow good hand hygiene and get tested if you are sick.

"Omicron will eventually enter the Southern district, and we want to catch it early when it does."

The new cases announced yesterday were in Northland (7), Auckland (128), Waikato (49), Lakes (1), Bay of Plenty (11), Hawke’s Bay (5), Wellington (3), Nelson Marlborough (3) and the South Canterbury case.

The steady rise of case numbers in the past week and the lowering of the threshold to get a vaccination booster shot from four months to three has seemingly prompted people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The Ministry spokesman said that almost 50,000 boosters were dispensed yesterday and that more than 1.5million eligible New Zealanders had now had their third shot of vaccine, a 50% pick-up rate so far.

Demand for the paediatric vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds had also been high, with the number of vaccinated children nearing 200,000.