Year three of the Government’s Covid-19 response begins in earnest, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern scheduled to receive her booster shot, and vaccine rollout opening up to children age 5-11. People will also be able to book a booster shot on the vaccine booking system from today.
Today also marks the end of the Auckland boundary, which meant only people who are vaccinated, or who have a recent negative Covid test, could leave the city.
This week will also see Cabinet ministers receive the next set of advice on the country’s traffic light settings.
Cabinet does not meet until next Monday, so it appears no actual decision on shifting the traffic light colour will be made this week. But Ministers will receive the Ministry of Health’s advice on the next step.
Currently, the whole country bar Northland is at the orange traffic light setting.
Speaking on Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested the Government’s next steps would be cautious, although she did not say whether caution meant remaining at the orange setting, or moving the country down to green, the most permissive setting.
She said Omicron cases in the community were inevitable.
“What I’m anticipating is we’ll have a cautious approach from the Ministry of Health,” Ardern said.
“What the most recent Omicron case demonstrates is that our systems are playing a very important role in working to hold Omicron at our border but it is sadly a case of when not if,” she said.
“That is why we are asking everyone who is eligible, make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations,” she said.
In December the Government brought forward the interval between a person’s second jab and their booster shot from six months to four months.
Ardern urged people who are now eligible to get jabbed.
“We’ve brought forward boosters because we know it has an impact in protecting people from severe illness with Omicron, so please if you’re eligible go out and get your booster,” she said.
Meanwhile, experts are concerned New Zealand is not ready for the arrival of Omicron in the community.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker told Newstalk ZB that Zealand should try to delay the arrival of Omicron in the community “for at least a couple of months”, to give the country time to prepare.
He also said the traffic light system “isn’t going to help us a great deal with Omicron”, and that brief, localised, lockdowns might have to be considered.
National leader Chris Luxon said the real issue for the Government was “getting ready for Omicron”.
“It is inevitable that it will be in our community at some point,” he said.
“The Government has been slow on vaccines, slow on boosters, and slow building ICU capability – and all this means we’re less prepared for Omicron than we should be.”
Luxon said the Government needed to increase rapid test capacity.
“The Government has been actively preventing the widespread use of rapid antigen tests, which will be vital to quickly identify Omicron when it gets into the community.
“We need to massively increase the availability of rapid tests, and a plan for how they will be used right across the country,” he said.
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