There are 2365 new community cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health has announced.
There has also been two Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total to 55 since the outbreak began nearly two years ago.
One of the people who died was a patient at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital.
“The family has requested that no further details be released and, out of respect for those wishes, we will be making no further comment,” the ministry said in a statement.
Additionally, another patient in their 70s at Auckland City Hospital has died following a diagnosis of Covid-19.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with both patients’ family and friends.”
There are 116 people in hospital with Covid-19, including one person in intensive care.
The people hospitalised with Covid-19 are in Northland (1), North Shore (20), Middlemore (34),Auckland (47), Tauranga (1), Waikato (12) and Tairāwhiti (1) hospitals.
The average age of current hospitalisations is 58.
Most of today’s community cases are in Auckland – 1692. The remaining cases are across Northland (50), , Waikato (136), Bay of Plenty (42), Lakes (24), Hawke’s Bay (23), MidCentral (14), Whanganui (5), Taranaki (4), Tairāwhiti (9), Wairarapa (8), Capital and Coast (89), Hutt Valley (19), Nelson Marlborough (58), Canterbury (105), South Canterbury (1), and the Southern region (86).
There are 15,928 active community cases in total in New Zealand, which are cases identified in the past 21 days and not yet classified as recovered.
The seven day rolling average of community cases is 1667. The seven day rolling average of border cases is 11.
The vaccination status for those in Auckland and Northland hospitals (Northern Region) and excluding emergency departments is:
• Unvaccinated or not eligible (14 cases / 14.6 per cent)
• Partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (3 cases / 3.1 per cent)
• Fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (78 cases / 81.2 per cent)
• Unknown (one case / 1 per cent).
More than 2.1 million booster shots have now been given nationally, with more than 15,000 administered on Sunday.
“Getting the booster dose greatly reduces your chances of getting severely ill and requiring hospital care if you test positive for Covid-19, so if it’s been three months since your last dose, please book your booster today,” the ministry said.
Additionally, 90 per cent of Māori in Counties Manukau DHB have now received their first dose of the vaccine.
“Omicron has spread to all DHBs across the North and South Islands, but all of us can play our part to slow the spread of the virus, help protect our most vulnerable people from being infected, and ensure our health system is able to manage extra demand for services.
“As always, anyone with any cold or flu symptoms that could be Covid-19 is asked to get a test and isolate at home until a negative result is returned and they are feeling well.
“Regardless of your test result, it is still important that anyone who is unwell stays home to reduce the spread of other viruses.
“The most common early symptom of the Omicron variant is a cough, followed by a sore throat and/or runny nose.”
The ministry announced rapid antigen tests were now available at Auckland Community Testing Centres only to those who fit the appropriate clinical criteria.
The site would determine which test (PCR or a rapid antigen test) was best for the person.
Access to rapid antigen tests will be expanded further during the coming week, the ministry said.
“At this time, please do not visit your GP for a RAT test or call them for guidance on RAT eligibility at Community Testing Centres.
“We will be providing further updates on the rollout throughout this week.”
“As the outbreak grows, more people will have Covid-19 and there will be more close contacts we need to test. As planned, we will now increase the use of RATs in phase 2 and phase 3 of our response in order to relieve pressure on the PCR testing and reserve it for those most likely to have Covid-19.”
The ministry reminded people that only those with symptoms or who have been identified as close contacts of a case, or directed by a health professional to get tested, should be turning up at testing sites.
Those who are directed to have a rapid antigen test will be given advice on what to do if they have a positive result, the ministry said in a statement.
At the current time, they will likely be advised that they need to have a PCR test to confirm the positive result.
There are 7.3 million rapid antigen tests in the country, the ministry says.
Some Covid-19 test results for Auckland and Waikato are currently taking longer to process at laboratories as testing demand has grown.
The use of rapid antigen testing, alongside PCR testing, would improve this process at a time of exceptional demand in Phase 2, provided the Community Testing Centre queues are freely available for those who really need a test, the ministry said.
“We are anticipating continued high demand at our Covid-19 testing sites, so our request is to, please, be patient. Our frontline staff across the health sector are doing the best they can to help in a timely way.”
Overall, 96 per cent of eligible people have had their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 95 per cent have received two doses.
Sixty sixty per cent of people who are eligible and due for their booster have received it.
Yesterday, 1338 first doses, 649 second doses, 1122 paediatric doses and 15,441 booster doses were administered.
To date, 48 per cent of eligible 5-11-year-olds have received their first dose of the vaccine.
For eligible Māori aged 12 and older, 91 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine, 87 per cent have received their second and 56 per cent of those eligible for their booster have received it.
For Pacific peoples, eligible and aged 12 and older, 98 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine, 95 per cent have received two and 53 per cent of those eligible for their booster have received it.
For eligible Māori children in this age group, 28 per cent have had one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
For eligible Pacific children in this age cohort, 39 per cent have received their first dose of vaccine.
In the last 24 hours, 27,109 Covid-19 tests were processed in New Zealand.
The rolling average for tests for the last seven days is 28,567.
the country is bracing for another grim week with Covid cases expected to double in coming days, adding to the record-breaking 10,000-plus cases from the past seven days.
An expert has said the numbers are “scary” but not “unanticipated”.
Covid-19 modeller Dr Dion O’Neale warned that 10,000 daily cases could be seen next week, which is earlier than initially predicted.
Last week, University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said the country was on track to see 10,000 Covid-19 infections a day by mid-March. However, he said even if we did reach the 10,000 predicted cases, we may not actually see them due to a lack of testing capacity.
Yesterday there was 2522 new cases in the community – a new high – and 17 Covid-19 cases were detected at the border.
A hundred people were in hospital with the virus, none were in ICU or HDU.
This morning, rapid antigen tests (RATs) were made available at all community testing centres in Auckland as they grapple with high demands.
Northern Region Health Coordination Centre operations director Matt Hannant told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking the initiative will help to relieve pressure.
“The labs are under a lot of pressure at the moment and we’ve had the positivity rate go up and so they’re not able to pool their samples as much – so rolling out the RATs initiative today we want to make sure we take that pressure off while making sure everyone who needs a test can get a test,” said Hannant.
From today, those who turned up to Covid testing stations in Auckland would be screened.
People who were close contacts, but not symptomatic would be given a rapid antigen test in the first instance.
If they were symptomatic and a close contact or had returned a positive RAT then they would get a PCR test.
Meanwhile, staffing issues are becoming a “nightmare” at some schools in Auckland as more and more teachers test positive or become a close contact.
With the pool of relief teachers drying up, some schools have made the call to keep a different year level home each day so the remaining classes can be fully staffed.
Last Thursday there were 320 education facilities dealing with active Covid cases, 177 in Auckland alone. They included 50 early learning centres, 196 primaries, 17 intermediates and 57 secondary schools, according to the Ministry of Education.
Today, Jacinda Ardern repeated her message to the anti-mandate protestors at Parliament.
She said they needed to go home and to know that restrictions will eventually ease.
“The light will start to get bigger and brighter.”
This morning central Wellington streets were blocked off using concrete barricades and police and protesters faced off as the demonstration entered day 14 of its occupation at Parliament.
Protesters allegedly threw human waste at officers – and ripped off some of the officers’ masks – as they clashed with police.
The early morning operation had involved 300 officers and large-scale equipment and is intended to prevent further growth of the protest and to maintain access for residents, businesses and emergency vehicles, said police.
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