Two COVID-19 deaths in New Zealand

·2-min read

Omicron continues to knock at New Zealand's door, as it records its first deaths from COVID-19 this year, taking its pandemic death toll to 53.

On Wednesday, New Zealand set a new single-day record for cases picked up at the border.

The Health Ministry confirmed 65 new cases of COVID-19 within hotel quarantine, known locally as MIQ.

While the variant of those cases are yet to be confirmed, genomic sequencing has shown positive cases in quarantine are now heavily skewing towards the infectious Omicron.

Of recent cases at the border, 196 cases have been confirmed as Omicron and 11 have been Delta.

Public health experts have warned for weeks of the imminent likelihood of an Omicron outbreak based on the growing number of cases at the border.

A Ministry of Health statement said roughly 420 positive cases had been identified from 18,000 arrivals.

"New Zealand has taken steps to manage the risk of a community Omicron outbreak linked to border cases, including increasing the period overseas arrivals must spend in MIQ and shifting the focus of whole genome sequencing to areas of most risk, such as for any cases in border workers," it read.

Health officials confirmed two men had recently died with the virus, including a man in his 60s who was receiving care at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital until he died on Sunday.

Another man in his 30s, who died at his home on January 5, tested positive to COVID-19 after his death.

As it awaits a possible Omicron outbreak, New Zealand's community caseload from its Delta outbreak which began in August remains low.

There were 28 community cases announced on Wednesday, well down from the outbreak's peak above 200 daily cases, reported last November.

Of those cases, most were in Auckland (17), with smaller numbers in Canterbury and South Canterbury, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and the Waikato.

There are 31 people in NZ hospitals with COVID-19, including two in intensive care.

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