COVID-19: Ministry of Health urges Kiwis to act like Omicron is in their community

The Ministry of Health is urging New Zealanders to act like Omicron is circulating in their community as the outbreak spreads. 

It comes after 97 new community COVID-19 cases and 11 new Omicron infections were reported on Saturday. 

"We're asking everyone in New Zealand to act like Omicron is circulating in their community," The Ministry tweeted. 

"That means wearing a mask in indoor settings with people you don't know, physical distancing, washing hands regularly and scanning in using the COVID-19 Tracer app, when you’re out."

The Ministry of Health also said Kiwis need to monitor for COVID symptoms and get tested if they appear. 

"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. 

"The most common early symptoms of the Omicron variant are a sore or scratchy throat and runny nose. If you have these symptoms, get test."

Last week the Government introduced stricter mask rules in an effort to slow the spread of the highly infectious variant. 

Masks must now be worn at food and drink businesses, close proximity businesses, events, and gatherings. But there is an exception for drinking, eating and exercising.

The new rules also don't apply to swimming pools or non-public facing businesses.

Additionally, face coverings need to be an actual mask, meaning bandannas, scarves, and t-shirts are no longer acceptable. 

The change also affects workers who are mandated to be vaccinated, they must wear a medical mask - such as the blue surgical masks, which are commonly used. 

Children, from Year 4 and up, will now have to wear masks on public transport, including school buses. 

The changes will come into force at 11:59pm on February 3. 

New Zealand is currently in the red traffic light setting meaning gathering limits and vaccine pass requirements are in place.