More Omicron found in NZ's border regime

·2-min read

New Zealand's COVID-19 case profile is changing, with signs the outbreak is decentralising beyond its previous heartland in Auckland.

On Wednesday, health authorities reported 17 community cases of the virus, of which only five were in the nation's largest city.

The low case number comes amid reduced testing figures, with many Kiwis on holiday.

Other infections were found in the Bay of Plenty (nine) and the Waikato (three), as well as two in Taranaki which will be added to Thursday's case count.

Until this week, Auckland had provided the lion's share of daily community cases in New Zealand's Delta outbreak, which began in August.

For the last three days, and for the first time since Delta emerged, cases outside Auckland have outnumbered those in NZ's biggest city.

Aucklanders were freed from a 107-day lockdown in December, and can now move around the country again: a change which public health experts predicted would lead to a spread of COVID-19 in regional areas.

While that may be happening, there has been no surge of cases: the rolling seven-day average is 37.

Infections discovered at the border outnumbered those in the community in Wednesday's figures.

Health officials reported 23 cases within quarantine - including 11 from Australia - with many believed to be the Omicron variant.

"This variant of COVID-19 continues to be having a significant impact globally, so it is not unexpected to see an increase of Omicron cases at the border," a Ministry of Health statement read.

Just three cases of Omicron have been found in the community, and public health officials do not believe the variant is spreading undetected.

There are 44 people with COVID-19 in New Zealand's hospitals, including five in intensive care.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appealed to Kiwis to get their booster shot to aid in the country's vaccination push.

From Wednesday, 1.2 million adults become eligible for a third dose of vaccine.

"We know we have another challenge in front of us and that is the Omicron variant," Ms Ardern wrote on her Instagram.

"If we want to prepare for this much more transmissible variant, a booster shot is incredibly important to help stop people becoming severely unwell."

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