Jacinda Ardern has announced she will delay her own wedding after putting all of New Zealand on Covid Red Alert following the discovery of nine Omicron cases in the community with no link to the border.
The Prime Minister said from 11:59pm on Sunday night all residents will be subject to new restrictions after a cluster of Omicron cases were detected in the community.
Ms Ardern also announced her wedding would be postponed due to the latest outbreak because she ‘was no different to other New Zealanders’.
‘Such is life,’ she told reporters during a press conference in which she reiterated the country was not entering a lockdown.
‘My wedding will not be going ahead, but I just join many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic.’
The PM was due to wed her television host partner Clarke Gayford this summer in Gisborne on the North Island after becoming engaged in early 2019.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured) has announced all of New Zealand will be placed on the Code Red Covid footing from 11:59pm on Sunday
Ardern (pictured with her partnner Clarke Gayford) also announced her wedding would be postponed due to the latest outbreak
‘Red is not lockdown. At Red businesses stay open and you can do most of things that you normally do, including visiting family and friends and travelling around the country,’ Ms Ardern said.
‘One of the most important things that people can do is to make sure you and your family have a buddy – like a neighbour or a friend – who can help you out by delivering things that you need if you do become unwell.’
The increase in settings comes after a cluster of nine Omicron cases were discovered in the community with no link to the border.
The new infections were detected in the Nelson and Marlborough region meaning there has been community transmission in Auckland and possibly Motueka.
‘Such is life,’ Ms Adern (pictured with her partner and their daughter Neve) told reporters during a press conference after confirming her wedding would be postponed
The cases are part of a single family who flew to a large wedding in Auckland in mid-January with a flight attendant also becoming infected.
‘We don’t yet have a clear lead on the index case that links this family to the border as we have with our other Omicron cases,’ Ms Ardern said.
New Zealand reported 24 community cases and 47 new cases identified at the border on Sunday with eight people in hospital and none in ICU.
At the red setting of New Zealand’s traffic light system residents are still able to do most things, including travel and visit other households.
The increase in settings comes after a cluster of nine Omicron cases were discovered in the community with no link to the border (pictured, people line up to get tested in New Zealand)
‘At Red businesses stay open and you can do most of things that you normally do, including visiting family and friends and travelling around the country,’ the PM said
Masks are now required in hospitality and retail settings, schools, airports, public transport and public buildings.
While hospitality venues can stay open, a 100 customer limit will apply, with patrons needing to show their vaccine passport and remain seated.
Capacity limits also apply for retail and public buildings, while offices are encouraged but not required to bring in work from home conditions.
New Zealand’s vaccine passport dubbed My Vaccine Pass will be required by law to enter many venues.
A cap of 100 vaccinated attendees and 25 non-vaccinated will also apply for public and private gatherings with Ardern adding her own wedding to her partner Clarke Gayford would be postponed.
There is no change to the start of the 2022 academic year, however, all students and staff above Year 4 need to wear masks indoors.
Ms Ardern was due to wed her television host partner Clarke Gayford (right) this summer in Gisborne on the North Island after becoming engaged in early 2019
Ms Ardern said both the North and the South Islands would be under the red setting for ‘some weeks’ as the country enters the start of a new wave (pictured, people line-up for vaccines)
Ms Ardern added there are no changes to the international border re-opening which is scheduled for February 28.
She said both the North and South Islands would be under the red setting for ‘some weeks’ as the country enters the start of a new Covid wave.
The government will prepare for three stages of Omicron with the third stage being if and when the country records new cases numbering in the thousands.
Phase one is in place from Monday as cases remain under 1,000 a day and involves the red traffic light setting and encouraging the uptake of booster vaccine doses.
Ms Ardern said more details on phase two and three will be revealed later in the week but would involve large scale rollout of rapid antigen tests as cases reach the thousands along with changes to contact tracing.
The prime minister said it was important residents came forward for their booster shot to increase coverage before the ‘virus takes off’.
New Zealand recorded 84 new Covid cases on Saturday, with 43 in the community and another 41 caught at the border (pictured, protesters
The prime minister said it was important residents came forward for their booster shot to increase coverage before the ‘virus takes off’ (pictured, residents get tested in Wellington)
‘One task I explicitly request New Zealanders to undertake as quickly as possible is to get boosted,’ she said.
‘This reduces the likelihood of transmission and of going to hospital’.
It comes just hours after it was announced household contacts of Covid cases will have to isolate for 24 days under harsh new rules.
Ms Ardern has brought in the strict measures as the country battles to stay Covid Zero despite the threat of the highly contagious mutant strain.
But critics say the lengthy quarantine period is ‘unworkable’ and will lead people to avoid getting tested.
Anyone infected with Covid is now required to isolate for 14 days, up from 10 days under the new interim rules.
Any New Zealander infected with Covid is now required to isolate for 14 days, up from 10 days under the new interim rules (pictured, people wait for coffee in Auckland)
Household contacts must then stay in quarantine for a further 10 days, stretching the time alone out to three and a half weeks.
The extension to isolation comes as New Zealand recorded 84 new Covid cases on Saturday, with 43 in the community and another 41 caught at the border.
It includes an Auckland airport worker who tested positive for the omicron strain, sparking fears case numbers could soar up to 1500 a day or more if the mutant strain spreads across the nation.
The NZ Ministry of Health said the changes were made after new scientific data published in Japan revealed the highly infectious strain has a longer incubation period than previous variants with sufferers also shedding the virus for longer.
But critics warn the policy is ‘unworkable’ and could lead to more cases with greater number refusing to be tested in order to avoid the lengthy quarantine period.
RESTRICTIONS AT NEW ZEALAND’S RED TRAFFIC LIGHT SETTING
– My Vaccine Pass will be legally required to be shown to enter venues that have vaccination requirements.
– Face masks are required in hospitality and retail settings, schools, universities, airports, public transport, and public buildings.
– Public and private gatherings including church services, weddings and funerals can go ahead with up to 100 attendees with My Vaccine Pass rules.
– Hospitality venues including cafes, bars and nightclubs can have up to 100 people provided everyone remains seated and separated from other groups.
– Events such as concerts, sporting matches and auctions can continue with the 100 person cap under the My Vaccine Pass rules.
– Events which don’t follow vaccine requirements are capped at 25 attendees.
– Childcare centres can remain open with all parents, staff and family required to wear face masks.
– Schools are to resume learning as scheduled but all staff and students from Years 4 and above must wear face masks indoors.
– University classes can continue with in-person attendees required to wear masks and show a My Vaccine Pass.
– And public places including cinemas and museums can remain open with the 100 person limit.
– Domestic travel can continue unrestricted with no changes to the international border re-opening which is scheduled for February 28.