Covid 19 Delta outbreak: 46 new Covid cases in community; 48 people in hospital

There are 46 new community cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today.

The Ministry of Health has just released the information.

It said a total of 71 Omicron cases have been detected at the border. Yesterday, it said the total was 54.

The ministry said the new Covid-19 cases announced in the daily update are the latest returnees to test positive.

The Omicron cases being announced each day are the latest results on test samples that ESR has run whole genome sequencing on. This process takes a day or more to complete after a case is identified. Therefore the Omicron cases announced each day are not the same cases as those being announced as new cases at the border.

It said not every positive case returns a whole genome sequence. Many of the results fail because the case does not have an acute infection.

There are three new cases in Northland, 30 in Auckland, six in Waikato, four in Lakes, two in Tairāwhiti and one in Canterbury.

There are now 48 infected people being treated in hospitals across Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua and Waikato. Seven people are in ICU.

Two cases in Tairāwhiti that were reported on Boxing Day had not been added to official numbers until today due to data reporting issues, the ministry said.

Three new cases have been detected in the Hokianga area, in the Far North, today. The trio are from the same household and are linked to an existing case, the ministry said.

In Waikato, five new cases have been reported in Te Kūiti and one with a Palmerston North residential address. All are linked to previous cases.

Three of the four new cases in Rotorua are close contacts of known cases. Investigations are under way to determine links with the fourth case.

An infected person in Canterbury is a close contact of another case. They are currently isolating in the community, the ministry said.

In Auckland 1417 people are now self-isolating at home, including 406 people infected with the virus. A further 61 cases are isolating at home in Waikato.

Testing numbers continue to remain “lower than usual” during the holiday period.

Eight other Covid cases were identified at the border. Infected recent returnees arrived from Australia, the United States, India and Turkey between December 20 and 26.

Almost 3000 booster shots were administered yesterday, as well as 279 first doses of the vaccine and 1917 second doses.

Waikato District Health Board (DHB) is only 505 doses away from having 90 per cent of its population fully vaccinated. It will become the ninth DHB to achieve this.

People who are on holiday but have symptoms that could be Covid are being urged to get a test – even if they are fully vaccinated and symptoms are mild.

Yesterday there were just 18 new cases detected in the community.

That was the lowest number since October 1, according to epidemiologist Michael Baker, who said elimination of Delta in New Zealand was now possible.

But while case numbers may be trending down in the community, there was a spike in cases at the border with 16 recorded.

On December 21, there were just five cases at the border, and on Monday there were 10.

Baker said yesterday’s increase was “quite alarming”.

Five of the new cases at MIQ are of the Omicron variant, bringing the total Omicron cases detected at the border to 54.

Among infected returnees are recent arrivals from Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom – all countries swamped by Omicron outbreaks that have put a dampener on Christmas.

A close eye is being kept on cases at the border, but Baker believes eliminating the Delta outbreak in the community is now conceivable due to the downward trend in daily case numbers.

“It’s not impossible the virus might get eliminated entirely at this period.

“None of us have expected that to happen but it’s not impossible, given the huge effort by New Zealanders in getting vaccinated, following the rules … and the added boost of summertime.”

Cases have been decreasing for days. There were 62 cases on Christmas Eve, 126 over Christmas and Boxing day, and on December 27 there were 34 community cases.

Yesterday, it dropped to just 18.

Baker attributes low community cases to high vaccination rates, people complying with the rules, but also low testing numbers during the Christmas period.

“It’s no accident that the numbers are now being pushed right down,” said Baker.

The Ministry of Health said daily tests being carried out are low because of the statutory holidays, and because many centres are closed.

The warmer weather is also said to be helping keep case numbers down.

“The good weather will be helping, [people are] opening windows up for ventilation and cooling and that really makes it hard for the virus to transmit,” said Baker.

He also said it’s encouraging that there hasn’t been an “explosion of cases around New Zealand” during the holiday period, and he hopes the downward trend will continue.

The seven-day rolling average of community cases now sits at 48.3.

Cases were reported yesterday in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and the Lakes district.

An infected woman in her 70s died at Middlemore Hospital at Auckland on Monday night.

The family has requested that no further details be released.

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