Possible close contacts isolating in lower South Island

About 15 people are in isolation in Otago and Southland after being identified as possible close contacts of a Covid-19 case.

No southerners have been confirmed as having the disease but, yesterday, Tauranga was added to Auckland, Palmerston North and Nelson as a region with cases of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health confirmed 25 new community cases of Covid-19 yesterday, in Northland (1), Auckland (18), Bay of Plenty (2), Lakes (2), MidCentral (1), and Nelson Marlborough (1).

In total, 29 community cases of Omicron have been detected.

At the start of the Delta outbreak last year, despite dozens of people in Otago and Southland being deemed possible contacts, no cases were discovered in the South.

However, as Omicron is much more transmissible, the Southern District Health Board was taking no chances and closely managing people now staying at home or out of the community.

‘‘All people and households are supported through their isolation period by Public Health South, Southern DHB, and the Ministry of Social Development,’’ medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack said.

Southerners continued to flock to GPs and medical centres for both Covid-19 booster shots and first vaccinations for 5 to 11-year-olds, and high demand had led to delays in Wanaka and several smaller centres.

The Book My Vaccine website yesterday had booking slots available within a few days at most in the major cities and towns, but waits of up to a fortnight in smaller towns.

SDHB Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme lead Karl Metzler said delays were due to southerners being proactive in booking their boosters.

‘‘Many providers in small communities have seen high demand, and in locations where bookings are not readily available in the next fortnight, we are actively looking to expand capacity.

‘‘Where people do need to travel to another centre to receive their booster dose, it is the goal of the ... vaccination team that people should not need to travel more than one hour to receive their vaccination.’’

There were no supply or staffing issues and there was plenty of vaccine and vaccinators, Mr Metzler said.

Wanaka was one of the places affected by lack of capacity, and additional bookings were now available in Wanaka for the rest of the week and in coming weeks, an SDHB spokeswoman said.

Booking capacity was available at more than 10 providers in the wider Queenstown Lakes district this month, and there were four walk-in locations in Queenstown.

There were no walk-in vaccination clinics in Wanaka.

An Oamaru Pacific Island community group was leading a vaccination drive in the town tomorrow and other such events could follow, Mr Metzler said. — Additional reporting Cass Marrett

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