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Red alert: New Zealand prepares for thousands of Omicron cases per day with community spread | New Zealand

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Omicron has crossed New Zealand’s borders and started to spread, Jacinda Ardern said, meaning the whole country will be placed on the highest level of restrictions.

The Prime Minister said on Sunday the country would try to slow the spread of Omicron, but New Zealand was expected to hit 1,000 cases a day in the coming weeks and thousands a day thereafter. New Zealand has not previously reported this level of infection.

“I know hearing these kinds of case numbers will sound deeply worrisome to people,” Ardern said. “We will do everything we can to slow the spread and reduce the number of cases we encounter as a nation.”

The Prime Minister said nine cases of Omicron had been detected among a family who had traveled to Auckland for a wedding and other events. Officials had not yet been able to link the outbreak to an “index case” at the border.

“That means Omicron is now circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson Marlborough area, if not elsewhere,” Ardern said.

Early estimates suggest more than 100 people attended events the family attended. A flight attendant on their flight also tested positive and has flown on multiple flights since.

The country would go to a “red” alert level at midnight on Sunday, the prime minister said. Under red restrictions, businesses and schools remain open and domestic travel can continue, but there are mask mandates, restrictions on the size of gatherings and vaccine passes are required to enter. in most non-essential businesses.

Ardern also urged New Zealanders to get vaccinated.

“Omicron is now present in more than 80 countries around the world – by delaying its arrival here, we have had time to launch boosters, vaccinations for children and [to] get ready,” she said.

The country has high levels of vaccination among adults: according to the Ministry of Health, 95% of people aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 93% have received both.

Ardern asked residents to be kind as New Zealand has seen the unprecedented spread of Covid.

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Red alert: New Zealand prepares for thousands of Omicron cases per day with community spread |  New Zealand

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“We are stronger as a team than we are as individuals, and now I ask that we all pull together. Please be nice. I know not everyone sees this pandemic the same way. But for the most part we are driven by the same thing, and that is to look out for each other,” she said.

New Zealand had braced for a rise in Omicron infections as it became clear the highly infectious variant was likely to find cracks in the country’s strict border measures.

There had been several cases of Omicron among workers at the border and in managed isolation and quarantine over the past week. Sunday’s announcement suggests these border-related cases have spread to the wider community.

On Thursday, Ardern told New Zealanders that the variant’s wider emergence was only a matter of time. “We will experience cases in New Zealand at a level we have never experienced before. We won’t stop Omicron, but we can try to slow it down,” she said.

Red alert: New Zealand prepares for thousands of Omicron cases per day with community spread | New Zealand

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