Omicron pushes NZ to record COVID count

New Zealand has notched a daily COVID-19 record, with 306 community cases reported.

The new cases are spread across North Island but centred on Auckland, amanslot which produced 216 of Thursday’s cases.

A rise in case numbers has been expected since the identification of the country’s first recorded spread of the Omicron variant on January 23.

Since then, cases have steadily inclined except for a plateau during the long weekend just past for Waitangi Day which coincided with lower testing numbers.

A surge in testing on Wednesday produced the record result on Thursday.

The Otago Daily Times reports the virus has also spread to Queenstown, which was COVID-free for amanslot 22 months, with a sole case that will be reflected in tomorrow’s national figures.

While cases have increased, hospitalisations remain at about the same levels prior to the spread of Omicron.

As of Thursday, amanslot there were 12 people in hospital, with none in intensive care.

Government ministers say they are learning from Australia’s recent experience with Omicron, releasing a new policy to allow critical workers to keep doing their jobs as the outbreak grows.

The government has committed to making rapid antigen tests free, and will also give vaccinated close contacts a pass from isolation if their job demands it.

COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said NZ was looking to get ahead after witnessing supply chain disruptions and worker shortages in Australia.

« A combination of high rates of Omicron alongside isolation periods for contacts has put severe strain on supply chains and the provision of important services, » he said.

« This (policy) is very much informed by experiences we’ve seen overseas, particularly our friends in NSW, and Victoria. »

Critical services include food production, health and emergency services, power and amanslot water suppliers, transport, financial services, news media and social welfare.

« These changes strike a balance between continuing to keep people safe, but also keep businesses and services operating as smoothly as possible, » Mr Hipkins said.

Microbiologist and former New Zealander of the Year Siouxsie Wiles said the policy does come with a risk but was a pragmatic approach.

« The rapid antigen tests will miss some infectious people so it is important that those taking part wear a well-fitted and effective mask, » she said.