There are 19 new Covid-19 cases in the community today, the Ministry of Health says.
Of those, six are in Auckland, five in Waikato, five in Bay of Plenty, one in Northland and two in Taranaki.
There is an extra case in Taranaki but as it came in after today’s cut-off time, it will be reported alongside tomorrow’s numbers.
There are 43 new cases at the border, up from 23 yesterday.
The ministry says it is likely the Omicron variant will be prevalent at the border. Whole genome sequencing of these new cases is expected soon.
From tomorrow, a pre-departure PCR test will be required within 48 hours of departure for anyone trying to enter New Zealand, down from 72 hours.
However, an exemption has been made for travellers coming from 105 specified countries and jurisdictions where “obtaining a PCR test may be difficult or not possible”. These people can instead provide evidence of a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) or loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test result.
Those tests would need to be taken within 24 hours of departure and must be supervised by a health professional, including pharmacists, and verified in writing in the jurisdiction of origin.
Scroll to the bottom for a full list.
The places exempt from the requirement for a PCR test within 48 hours of departure, and for which a RAT or LAMP test is allowed as an alternative, are on the Unite Against Covid-19 website.
There are 38 people with Covid-19 in hospital – five at North Shore, 14 at Auckland, 15 at Middlemore and four at Tauranga.
Four of them are in intensive care or high dependency units – two each at Middlemore and Tauranga.
The one case in Taranaki, which came in after the cut-off time, is a household contact of a previous case linked to the Eltham cluster.
They were in isolation over the holiday period.
Regarding the two Taranaki cases announced yesterday, public health staff are still investigating any links to previous cases and determining any other locations of interest.
Already announced as a location of interest was the Taranaki Base Hospital’s emergency department.
The local district health board was working with those affected but no staff had been required to stand down at this stage.
Anyone at the emergency department between Saturday, January 1 at 6.30pm and midnight on Sunday, January 2 would be considered a casual contact.
Taranaki DHB has also officially fully vaccinated 90 per cent of its residents today, according to the Ministry of Health.
Cases around the North Island
In Auckland, 1066 people are isolating at home, including 291 cases.
For today’s Waikato cases, two are in Coromandel, one in Tairua, one in Hamilton and one is yet to be confirmed.
Three cases are linked while two remain under investigation.
A pop-up testing site is operating in Waihī and testing is available in Whitianga at general practices.
In the Waikato region, 50 people with the virus are isolating at home.
Three of today’s Bay of Plenty cases are in Tauranga and two are in the Western Bay of Plenty District.
The Ministry of Health clarified the Northland case reported today was isolating in Northland but lives in Auckland and has now transferred back there where they will be re-tested.
They are being treated as a transferred case and tomorrow’s numbers will be updated accordingly.
A new case in Taupō is still under investigation and more information will be provided tomorrow.
There have been no unexpected wastewater detections of Covid-19 to report.
On contact tracing, 82 per cent of the 5223 contacts being managed across the country have received a call to confirm testing and isolation requirements. Seventy-eight per cent have returned at least one test result.
There was a significant rise in booster vaccinations yesterday as the interval between the second dose and the booster was officially reduced from six to four months yesterday.
More than 35,000 extra booster doses were administered today compared to yesterday, a total of 41,165.
That added to the 1307 first doses, 4601 second doses and 599 third primary doses that were also administered yesterday.
17 cases in the community yesterday
Just 17 cases were found yesterday, while the seven-day rolling average had dropped to 41 cases – the lowest it’s been since October 12.
Of yesterday’s community cases, five were in Auckland, three in Waikato, and nine in Bay of Plenty.
Two further cases had been found in Taranaki but were added to today’s tally as they were reported after yesterday’s cut-off period.
The two cases in Taranaki were household contacts of each other, however, their link to another case had yet to be determined. Public health staff were continuing to investigate to determine links to any previously reported cases in the region.
There were 23 further cases at the border yesterday. Omicron was expected to be the “most prevalent variant” at the border, the ministry says, and whole genome sequencing was under way to establish how many new cases are Omicron.
On Tuesday, the ministry announced a third border-related case of Omicron – a household contact of an Air New Zealand staffer who tested positive recently.
There were still no locations of interest or exposure events linked to this person, and the risk to the community was considered to be extremely low.
The person, who was fully vaccinated, had been in isolation for the entirety of their symptomatic period.
Anyone 18 or over who has gone four months after their second vaccine dose can nowreceive their booster shot. That’s down from six months previously.
People can book an appointment with the Covid Vaccination Healthline team on 0800 28 29 26, or they can visit a walk-in vaccination site.
From January 17, people who had gone four months after their second dose could book their boosters on Book My Vaccine. Those who had waited six months or longer after their second dose could book their booster now on the site.
In total, 1.2 million Kiwis had become eligible to get their booster from yesterday.
The gap between the second and booster doses of the vaccine has been shortened because of the global emergence of the Omicron variant, which was more transmissible than previous strains.
To ensure enough vaccination capacity, Auckland’s Airport Park and Ride drive-through vaccination centre has reopened.
The drive-through is at 42 Verissimo Drive, Māngere, and operates from 10am-5pm with no appointment needed. It can vaccinate more than 4000 people per day.
Cases linked to massage parlour
Yesterday, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre confirmed four further cases had been linked to an Auckland escort agency and massage parlour, The Pelican Club, the total number rising to 10.
Auckland health officials expressed their concern this week that more positive cases and close contacts could be in the community.
“Public health are therefore requesting anyone who visited the venue between 22 and 31 December contacts Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and follows the advice provided on the Locations of Interest website,” the spokesperson said.
It was unclear how many contacts were linked to The Pelican Club.
The current advice is:
• Isolate (stay at home) for 10 days after the last visit to the Pelican Club.
• Get tested on days 5 and 8 after they were last at the venue during these dates, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.
• If symptoms develop at any time during the 10 days, they should get an additional test immediately.
• Stay at home until all test results come back negative.
• Visit the Locations of Interest website to record their visit online or call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. This is so contact tracers can provide further advice.
Health officials said the club’s workers were getting specific advice from their manager.
From January 7, a PCR test will be required within 48 hours of departure for anyone trying to enter New Zealand, down from 72 hours.
However, an exemption has been made for travellers coming from 105 specified countries and jurisdictions where obtaining one may be difficult or impossible.
Travellers can instead provide evidence of a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) or loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test, taken within 24 hours of departure.
These tests must be supervised by a health professional and verified in writing in the jurisdiction of origin.
The 105 countries eligible for the exemption:
• Antigua and Barbuda
• Brunei Darussalam
• Burkina Faso
• Cabo Verde
• Central African Republic
• Costa Rica
• Cote d’ Ivoire
• Czech Republic
• Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
• Democratic Republic of the Congo
• Dominican Republic
• El Salvador
• Equatorial Guinea
• Hong Kong
• North Macedonia
• Republic of Moldova
• San Marino
• Sao Tome and Principe
• Sierra Leone
• Sri Lanka
• St Kitts and Nevis
• St Vincent and the Grenadines
• Wallis and Futuna
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