Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, January 21

With Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warning it is not a question of if but when we will see an Omicron outbreak in New Zealand all eyes will be on the new cases in Auckland and Manawatū.  

The Ministry of Health has confirmed the new case of COVID-19 detected in Manawatū is the Omicron strain of COVID-19. 

 In a statement shared to its social media on Thursday morning, MidCentral District Health Board (DHB) confirmed the case had been identified in Manawatū.

This followed the announcement of two more cases of Omicron in Auckland. 

One was a household contact of the initial case, who is a worker at a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility, and a triple-vaccinated staffer at Auckland Airport.

New high-risk locations of interest have been released including Ghengis Khan restaurant in Henderson and  Wild Child and Wild Families in Papakura. 

The Ministry of Health is expected to give the latest update at 1pm. 

The latest locations of interest can be viewed here.

What you need to know

  • The Ministry of Health says the COVID-19 case in Palmerston North is the Omicron strain. 
  • Another Auckland Airport worker has tested positive for COVID-19 and it is believed to be the Omicron strain.  
  • Two people tested positive for the Omicron variant in Auckland - a triple-vaccinated worker at Auckland Airport and a household contact of the initial case, an MIQ staffer
  • The MIQ staffer tested positive for the variant on Sunday - their household contact, now confirmed to also be carrying Omicron, tested positive on Tuesday
  • Another household contact of the MIQ worker has tested positive and is assumed to be carrying Omicron
  • Twenty-three new cases new cases in the community were announced on Friday -  11 are in Auckland, nine in Nelson, one in Waikato, eight in Lakes DHB, three in Hawke's Bay
  • The Government will not revert to lockdowns in the event of an Omicron outbreak - instead the country will move to the Red setting within 24 to 48 hours

These live updates have now finished.

5:00pm - Here is a summary of the key points today: 

  • The COVID-19 case in Palmerston North is the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but as of Friday there are no other confirmed cases in the region. 
  • Another Auckland Airport worker is suspected of having Omicron, which would bring the total number of cases in the city to five.  
  • The isolation period for all COVID-19 cases has been extended from 10 days to 14 days and for close contacts it is extending from seven days to 14. 
  • There are 23 new cases of COVID-19 in the community, with Nelson reporting nine and Hawke's Bay reporting three new cases.

4:37pm - The World Health Organisation (WHO) is advising against COVID-19 travel restrictions, describing them as a "heavy burden on lives and livelihoods". 

In recently updated advice on its website, the United Nations branch said blanket travel bans "will not prevent the international spread" of COVID-19 and "they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods".  

"Lift or ease international travel bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced," the WHO advice reads. 

"The failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of the Omicron variant to limit international spread of Omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time."

Read the full story here.

4:15pm - The World Health Organisation says for the first time since the Omicron variant was discovered in South Africa, cases in Africa have dropped. 

South Africa has seen cases drop for four weeks now, while new cases across the continent fell by 20 percent last week the WHO says. 

Omicron deaths fell by 8 percent. 

WHO regional director for Africa warned against complacency though saying "“So long as the virus continues to circulate, further pandemic waves are inevitable. Africa must not only broaden vaccinations, but also gain increased and equitable access to critical COVID-19 therapeutics to save lives and effectively combat this pandemic.”

3:40pm - Western Australia has cancelled plans to reopen its borders on Feb. 5 citing health risks from a surge in Omicron cases elsewhere in the country, as the tally of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began topped 2 million.

WA Premier Mark McGowan made the shock announcement late Thursday saying it would be "reckless and irresponsible" to open up now given the rapid spread of the variant.

Instead, re-opening would be delayed indefinitely or at least until the percentage of triple dose vaccinations reached 80%. It is currently around 26%.

"If we proceeded with the original plan, we would be deliberately seeding thousands upon thousands of COVID cases into WA and at this point in time that is not what I am going to do," McGowan told reporters.


3:13pm - Singer Adele has postponed her three-month Las Vegas residency after half her crew got COVID-19. 

In a tearful Instagram post the singer said "I am so sorry, my show ain't ready. 

 We have tried absolutely everything we can to put it together and have it ready for you but we have been absolutely destroyed by delivery delays and COVID." 

 The residency was supposed to begin on January 21 at the Colosseum at Ceaser's Palace.  

"We’re going to reschedule all of the dates, we’re on it right now … I’m gonna finish my show and I’m gonna get it to where it’s supposed to be."

2:30pm - National leader Christopher Luxon says he is unsure if shifting to 'red' is the right move in the event of an Omicron outbreak due to the "very confusing" traffic light criteria.  

His comments came after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that in the event of an Omicron outbreak, New Zealand would shift to the red traffic light of the COVID-19 Protection Framework, which last year replaced the alert levels. 

Luxon, when asked if he supported the Prime Minister's announcement, said he was unsure because he didn't understand the traffic light system criteria. 

"I don't understand the logic behind the criteria that's being used for the traffic light system," he told reporters in Nelson. 

"It's not to say we shouldn't have a system, but it's just the fact that we've gone from alert levels, to steps, to traffic lights, and when I've looked at the logic of when we move between colours, it's been quite unclear. I don't understand the criteria or the logic." 

Read the full story here


2:00pm - MoH regional update 

Regional updates

We are continuing to ask anyone in New Zealand with symptoms – no matter how mild – to get tested, even if you’re vaccinated. Please stay at home until you return a negative test result. 

Testing and vaccination centre locations nationwide can be found on the Healthpoint website.

Please also continue to check for any updated Locations of Interest and appropriate health advice, updated regularly on the Ministry’s website.

Nelson Tasman

There are nine new cases to report in the Nelson Tasman region. All of the cases live in the same household.

Eight of these cases were notified after the Ministry’s reporting deadline, and will be added to the official tally tomorrow.

Public health officials are investigating recent travel to Auckland as the source of their infections.

Case interviews are underway and locations of interest will be added to the Ministry’s webpage where contacts at exposure events cannot be identified.

Testing sites are operating in Nelson and Motueka today and over the weekend. For details of all dedicated testing sites including general practices, visit Healthpoint or the DHB Facebook page.


There are 11 new cases to report in Auckland.

Health and welfare providers are now supporting 712 people in the region to isolate at home, including 147 cases.


There is one new case in Waikato to report today. The case is in Hamilton and is currently under investigation to determine any links to previous cases.

Public Health, primary care and manaaki providers in the region are supporting 15 cases to isolate at home. 


Today we are reporting eight new cases in the Lakes DHB region - all are in the Rotorua area.

Seven of today’s cases are linked to previously reported cases and one case is still being investigated to determine any links.

All cases are isolating at home or in managed accommodation.

Hawke’s Bay

Today we are reporting three new cases in Hawke’s Bay, one of which was notified after the Ministry’s cut off and will be officially added to tomorrow’s case numbers.

1:55pm - Full Ministry of Health statement: 

New Zealand’s vaccine rollout remains our key defence against all variants of COVID-19, including Omicron.

There were 37,967 boosters administered yesterday, bringing the total to 903,464, which is 54% of the eligible population.

There were a total of 11,762 first doses of the paediatric Pfizer vaccine administered yesterday to 5 to 11-year-olds, bringing the total 51,639.

We want to thank children who got their first dose yesterday and the caregivers who supported them. We encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.  

To book a paediatric vaccine, you can:

Use Healthpoint to find out of your local doctor or pharmacy can immunise local tamariki

Change to isolation requirements

As part of the response to Omicron, at this stage our public health teams are focussed strongly on stamping out early any Omicron cases in the community. 

To help address the increased infectiousness of Omicron, as an interim measure the isolation time for all COVID-19 cases is being extended to 14 days. It was previously ten days.

A similar change Is being applied for close contacts where all close contacts will now isolate for ten days. This was previous seven. These changes take effect from today.

Isolation periods for cases and close contacts remain under review and are planned to change as part of the response to an Omicron community outbreak.

Palmerston North Omicron case update

Whole genome sequencing has confirmed that the case who tested positive in Palmerston North has the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The case became symptomatic on Wednesday and returned a positive COVID-19 test result on Wednesday evening, with WGS confirmed Thursday evening.

The Ministry would like to thank the person for recognising COVID-19 symptoms and getting a test.  

Whole genome sequencing has identified similarities to border cases identified in Auckland, but no direct links.  It has not identified any links to cases in the Christchurch MIQ facility, suggesting that the source of infection is offshore – either in the country they travelled from or during travel to New Zealand - rather than transmission in the Christchurch MIQ facility where they stayed.

This case was released on 16 January (Sunday), after returning a negative test result on five occasions throughout their stay.

They travelled on flight NZ550 from Christchurch to Auckland departing at 1400 arriving into Auckland at 1520. They then travelled on NZ5121 from Auckland to Palmerston North departing Auckland at 1655.  The case is considered to be infectious from Monday 17 January, however if you travelled on either of these flights, as a precautionary measure, you are asked to get a test as soon as possible.   If you are displaying symptoms you are asked to get a test and isolate immediately.  For further clarification please contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

All locations of interest associated with this case are considered to be high risk and anyone who has been at these locations at the times stated are asked to follow the advice on the website, including to isolate and get tested immediately.

One previously published location of interest associated with this case has been amended. The case visited ANZOR Fasteners on 19 January. They did not visit ANZA on this date as previously stated.

COVID-19 vaccine update

  • Vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people): 3,994,037 first doses (95%); 3,906,620 second doses (93%); 36,348 third primary doses; 903,461 booster doses
  • Vaccines administered yesterday: 1,211 first doses; 2,321 second doses; 495 third primary doses and 37,967 booster doses.
  • Māori (percentage of eligible people): 508,398 first doses (89%); 479,172 second doses (84%).
  • Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people): 275,239 first doses (96%); 266,366 second doses (93%).

Vaccination rates by DHB with active cases (percentage of eligible people)

  • Northland DHB: First doses (89%); second doses (86%)
  • Auckland Metro DHBs: First doses (97%); second doses (95%)
  • Waikato DHB: First doses (94%); second doses (92%)
  • Bay of Plenty DHB: First doses (94%); second doses (91%)
  • Lakes DHB: First doses (93%); second doses (90%)
  • MidCentral DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (94%)
  • Hawke’s Bay DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (93%)
  • Wairarapa DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (94%)
  • Capital and Coast DHB: First doses (98%); second doses (97%)
  • Hutt Valley DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (94%)
  • Nelson Marlborough First doses (96%); second doses (94%)·       
  • Canterbury DHB: First doses (99%); second doses (97%)


  • Cases in hospital: 18; North Shore: 4; Auckland: 7; Middlemore: 7.
  • Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only): Unvaccinated or not eligible (4 cases / 24%); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (3 case / 18%); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (9 cases / 53%); unknown (1 case / 6%).
  • Average age of current hospitalisations: 55
  • Cases in ICU or HDU: 1; Middlemore: 1.


  • Seven day rolling average of community cases: 22
  • Seven day rolling average of border cases: 40
  • Number of new community cases: 23
  • Number of new cases identified at the border: 44
  • Location of new community cases: Auckland (11), Waikato (1), Lakes (8), *Hawke’s Bay (2), *Nelson Marlborough (1)
  • Number of community cases (total): 11,423 (in current community outbreak)
  • Cases epidemiologically linked (total): 8,692
  • Number of active cases (total): 488 (cases identified in the past 21 days and not yet classified as recovered)
  • Confirmed cases (total): 15,026 


  • Number of active contacts being managed (total): 4,792
  • Percentage who has received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements): 78%
  • Percentage who has returned at least one result: 78%

1:51pm - Ministry of Health is reporting one new possible Omicron case in Auckland. The person works at Auckland Airport and they are not linked to previously reported Auckland Omicron cases.

The worker’s infection was detected in a routine surveillance test taken on 18 January and a positive result was returned yesterday.

Whole genome sequencing is underway to determine the variant, though as a prudent measure, it is being treated as an Omicron case. Investigations are underway to determine the source of infection.

Testing of both household and workplace close contacts is underway. To date, one household member has returned a positive result and one has tested negative.

The case is considered to be infectious from 16 January. Initial locations of interest are expected to be published today.

Our objective for all possible Omicron cases is to stamp out the infection and prevent any onward transmission.

1:47pm - There are 23 new cases in New Zealand today

1:40pm - The Ministry of Health has confirmed to Newshub the COVID-19 case in Palmerston North is Omicron. They also confirmed there were currently no new cases linked to that case. 

1:30pm - Stuff is reporting there are nine new cases of COVID-19 in the Nelson region. All of the cases are reportedly living in the same house.

1:15pm - We are still waiting for confimration from the Ministry of Health it is Omicron. 

1:10pm - The New Zealand Herald is reporting the Manawatū COVID-19 cases is Omicron. 

Earlier today Midcentral District Health Board says there are no new cases of COVID-19 to report as of 11:00am. 

1:00pm - We are expecting the latest update from the Ministry of Health at any minute. 

12:50pm - Hawke's Bay DHB has reported another COVID-19 case, taking the total number in the region up to nine, including eight in one cluster.

DHB medical officer of health Dr Rachel Eyre said more locations of interest were likely to be announced.

"Anyone associated with the Tu Step Fitness Class and who was there on the dates and times notified on Ministry of Health's locations of interest page, must follow public health advice."

12:31pm - COVID-19 has been detected in wastewater in Tairāwhiti despite there being no known cases in the region. 

Further testing has been carried out on the wastewater and the results are expected today. 

The result could point to a community case or it could be someone who has returned from overseas but isolated in MIQ. 

12:25pm - Sky City Auckland Casino has been named as a location of interest with people who visited the popular gaming spot on Tuesday January 18 between 12:23am and 2:23am advised to self-monitor for symptoms.

For more details click here

12:20pm - The Prime Minister warned yesterday if Omicron transmission was detected in the community New Zealand would move to the red traffic light setting, but she ruled out more of the old-style level 4 lockdowns. 

"Red does not mean lockdowns or regional boundaries and business remains open," Ardern said.

That is despite Ardern saying we could see between 1000 and 10,000 new cases a day. 

12:10pm - Auckland's hospitals are urgently planning how to cope with double the number of COVID-19 patients dealt with in the Delta outbreak.

Modelling for when Omicron hits suggests a peak of 190 patients with COVID-19 in hospital on any given day, based on a prediction of about 1800 community cases a day in the city.

Planning is underway to help the hospitals cope and one of the biggest worries is making sure there is enough staff as workers will inevitably catch COVID-19 themselves.

Read the full story here

12:00 - New South Wales has seen its deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths and 25,186 new cases. Victoria recorded 20 deaths and 18,167 new cases. 

The New South Wales government has predicted the current Omicron wave will peak this week.

11:43am - Midcentral District Health Board says there are no new cases of COVID-19 to report as of 11:00am on Friday. 

This comes after a suspected case of Omicron was reported yesterday. 

The DHB processed 297 tests yesterday.  

11:30am - Ghengis Khan restaurant and Wild Child and Wild families in Papakura have bene named as high-risk locations of interest by the Ministry of Health. People who visited those locations at specific times are being told to self-isolate, test immediately and on day five.

New World in Broadway, Palmerston North is also a location of interest. 

For more details click here