Airport worker, household contact have Omicron variant

Two Covid-infected people have been confirmed to have the Omicron variant in Auckland, health officials have confirmed.

An Auckland airport worker and a household contact of the MIQ worker with Omicron both also have that variant, genome testing has confirmed.

The pair had both tested positive yesterday.

One of the infected people was out in the community on Tuesday this week (January 18). The case visited Ara-Tai Cafe in Auckland's Halfmoon Bay between 12.30pm and 2pm.

Cafe customers seated inside during that time are considered close contacts and are asked to self-isolate and get tested immediately and on day 5.

"Further isolation and testing requirements will be provided by Public Health," the Ministry of Health said late last night.

Those seated outside are considered casual contacts and are advised to self-monitor for Covid symptoms for 10 days.

Meanwhile the country is likely to remain in the orange setting of the Covid traffic light system after Cabinet's first meeting of the year, with the Government set to unveil plans to counter an Omicron community outbreak.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to set out any change to the traffic light settings at a press conference at Labour's caucus retreat in New Plymouth today following yesterday's meeting of Cabinet ministers.

Those decisions are likely to include moving Northland to the orange setting as the region's vaccination rates near 90 per cent for first doses, and because increased travel over summer has not resulted in a dramatic increase in cases.

However, despite very high vaccination rates in some regions and declining Delta cases, the rest of the country is expected to be held at orange as part of the Omicron plan.

It would help slow the spread if Omicron cases in the community are not detected quickly, and is an incentive for people to get vaccinated.

Ardern is also expected to spell out what an Omicron outbreak is likely to look like for New Zealand – including potential case numbers showing at its the peak the daily numbers of Omicron will far exceed the peak of more than 200 cases in one day under Delta and potentially hit the thousands.

She is also expected to discuss the ramifications for that on contact tracing and testing.

Ardern could provide some details of the Omicron plan – although detailed plans on issues such as care for positive cases, the rules for isolating after potential exposure and stand down periods are not expected for another week or two.

The Government's current strategy is to keep Omicron out of the community for as long as possible to buy time for boosters and preparation.

As of yesterday, there had been at least 370 cases of Omicron in MIQ since December 1, and 56 new Covid-19 recorded cases yesterday at the border.

Cabinet is also considering tweaks to "Omicronise" the traffic light settings. The measures recommended by director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield include more mask use at all levels, and smaller gathering limits, especially at the red setting.

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