Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Fight against variant underway, as 'tens of thousands' of daily cases predicted

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Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Fight against variant underway, as 'tens of thousands' of daily cases predicted

OMICRON OUTBREAK LATEST:
* ‘We could see toilet paper running out in a week’: Supply chain expert
* Up to half of NZ could become infected with Omicron
* Omicron protocols could see households isolating for up to 24 days
* Health workforce ’emergency’: 1500 more hospital docs, 1400 GPs and 12,000 nurses needed

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

More Air NZ flight crew are expected to test positive for Covid, with one flight attendant already infected.

Air New Zealand chief Greg Foran confirmed today that more crew members were starting to show symptoms – and he expected more cases among airline staff.

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An infected crew member among was double vaccinated, but he was unsure if they had received their booster shot.

The crew member was on the same Auckland to Nelson flight as the nine people who have since tested positive for the Omicron variant.

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Foran said Air NZ was probably the safest airline in the world to travel at the moment and they had a number of safety measures and protocols in place including staff members wearing N95 masks.

He was confident the crew members on that flight did everything right.

As the hunt to find the source of a community outbreak of the highly transmissible Covid Omicron variant continues, authorities say there could be “tens of thousands” of community daily cases in a few weeks, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, he said current modelling shows tens of thousands of people could test positive for the variant each day within a few weeks.

“It certainly could be into the tens of thousands reasonably quickly – so within weeks.

“That is certainly potential. If you look around the world that’s certainly what has happened in a lot of places.”

Although determining the trajectory of the outbreak is currently based on “crystal ball gazing”, Omicron is not going to play out in the same way as earlier variants, Hipkins said.

“We do know that Omicron is a far more transmissible variant – so highly infectious.

“So therefore for every person who get it, there will be a lot more extra people that get it – rather than with previous variants where we were aiming to keep that replication value down below 1 – we’re not going to be able to do that with Omicron.

“We expect that in those early stages, it will start off small but it will grow quickly.”

On how hospitals will be able to manage the influx of Omicron cases, Hipkins said “a lot of people” who will get it will be able to stay home.

He acknowledged that there were low numbers of people with Omicron in ICU across the Tasman and that we are prepared for that too.

“No country has not experienced pressure on the health system,” Hipkins said, however.

As the case numbers grow, our contact-tracing procedures will change too, Hipkins said.

Asked how it will change, he said the Government had done a lot of work over the summer about how that process will work.

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Fight against variant underway, as 'tens of thousands' of daily cases predicted

People on Auckland's Queen St yesterday, after the Government announced a move back into the red light traffic setting. Photo / Alex Burton

The main message is that contact tracing will be different because we will be dealing with a bigger number of cases.

On rapid antigen tests, Hipkins said they will play a much bigger part as we deal with this new variant of Covid-19.

On schools due to open, Hipkins said at the moment, schools are continuing to be told to prepare to open.

Asked if there were any new cases overnight, he said “undoubtedly” there would be.

Big Auckland calendar events cancelled

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the move to the red traffic light just before midnight last night did not offer that many more restrictions for people themselves.

However, it would impact big events such as the Lantern Festival, Pasifika Festival, movies and music in the parks, sports events and weddings and funerals.

He thought people accepted restrictions were needed due to the contagious nature of Omicron.

The bigger concern he had was the impact on the workforce across the board if people got sick.

He said the focus needed to be on containing and stopping the rapid growth of Omicron so the workforce, supply chain and hospital systems could cope.

Goff said Auckland’s high vaccination rate gave them a good advantage and the people they had to worry about was those who were unvaccinated and could get sick more seriously.

It was good to see the number of people getting their booster shots yesterday afternoon trebling, he said.

But people needed to follow the rules and wear masks, socially distance and get tested.

“I’m not in the camp of those who say just let it rip, let it come in.”

Goff was sure companies including construction companies would be putting measures in place such as shifts so that if Omicron did enter the workplace, then it would not take everyone out. His own office was also doing this.

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Fight against variant underway, as 'tens of thousands' of daily cases predicted

People walk along Auckland's Queen St yesterday hours before the country moved back into the red light traffic setting. Photo / Alex Burton

Goff said they would be doing everything they could do to keep rubbish services running and libraries open while following strict protocols to minimise the risk of spread in those environments.

Meanwhile, members of the public are being urged not to panic buy.

Auckland University supply chain expert David Robb said we could see toilet paper running out within “a week or so”.

Robb said the workforce could be impacted hugely if Omicron gets into workplaces and factories linked to the supply chain – particularly if people need to isolate or stay home longer.

He advised people to try to buy essential items before you run out and not rush out to supermarkets to stock up.

“If you’re down to one piece of toilet paper, you probably should be ordering earlier than that.”

Countdown general manager of corporate affairs Kiri Hannifin said they saw some heavy sales of toilet paper yesterday and it had been a busy few days for the supermarket giant.

“We understand that it makes sense to get a couple of extra products in the shop to prepare for being at home for a few days or a week or so – that’s completely understandable.”

But don’t go overboard and get a trolley load of toilet paper, she said.

Hannifin said they had been planning for Omicron since December and learning from its Australian businesses.

Given what happened in New South Wales, Countdown was expecting supermarkets to be hit first which was not great news in terms of supply chain disruption.

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