The two big questions are can New Zealand continue keeping its case numbers down and can we keep Omicron at bay?
The current Delta outbreak appears to be under control, but things could change if, as many experts are predicting, the Omicron strain of COVID-19 breaks through the border.
The number of cases at the border dropped on Thursday from the highs of earlier in the week.
The Ministry of Health will be providing an update on the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand at 1pm.
What you need to know:
- There were 18 new community cases announced on Friday and 43 at the border.
- There have been 266 cases of Omicron detected at the border since December 1
- Thirty-four people are in hospital, including two in ICU or HDU.
- Click here for locations of interest.
7:30pm - COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 are due to roll out on Monday, but it's not proving easy to book a shot, even for the enthusiastic.
There's plenty for tamariki to explore at Tāmaki Vaccination Centre - it's preparing to open on Monday so children aged over five can get a COVID-19 vaccination.
But not everyone is quite so prepared.
5pm - Some families are reuniting, some are celebrating and others are making fresh starts as the Cook Islands travel bubble reopens with New Zealand.
The Cook Islands reopened its borders to fully vaccinated New Zealanders on Friday morning.
More than 300 people took off on Friday from Auckland international Airport after the border was closed for five months.
4pm - A man in the United States has claimed that his penis shrunk 1.5 inches after being infected with COVID-19, and studies suggest it's possible.
Speaking on the sex-themed podcast How To Do It, the man said: "When I got out of the hospital, I had some erectile dysfunction issues. Those gradually got better with some medical attention, but I seem to be left with a lasting problem: My penis has shrunk.
"Before I got sick, I was above average; not huge, but definitely bigger than normal. Now I've lost about an inch-and-a-half and become decidedly less than average."
The possibility of coronavirus impacting penile function was first studied last year, with researchers discovering that former patients had evidence of blood vessel damage in their appendages.
3:30pm - This coming Monday, January 17, will be a significant day in the Government's COVID-19 response.
January 17 is the day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hinted at a return to normality - it's when the requirement to be either fully vaccinated or have a negative test to leave Auckland ends.
But that's not the only reason January 17 is a significant day. It marks another milestone in the Government's COVID-19 response: children aged 5 to 11 will be able to get vaccinated.
January 17 is also the day police and Defence Force staff in certain roles must have had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Those workers will need to be fully vaccinated by March 1.
It's also the day New Zealanders travelling from Australia were meant to be able to return without going into managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ). But this was delayed until the end of February due to the threat of Omicron.
2:50pm - Love them or hate them face masks have become part of everyone's wardrobe since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Aside from the health benefits there aren't many other positives to having your face covered, aside from one it seems.
Academics in the UK have found they can make you seem more attractive.
The study was prompted by the fact that surgical face masks were always viewed as unattractive as they were associated with disease, however researchers wanted to find out if the pandemic had changed all that.
Dr Michael Lewis, who was involved in the study told the Guardian:
"We wanted to test whether this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand whether the type of mask had any effect," he said.
"Our study suggests faces are considered most attractive when covered by medical face masks. This may be because we're used to healthcare workers wearing blue masks and now we associate these with people in caring or medical professions.
"At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer."
2:30pm - Associate Professor Siouxie Wiles is encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated when they are eligible to do so from Monday.
"I’m really grateful that our younger children will now be able to participate in protecting themselves and their loved ones from Covid-19. The real-world data is clearly showing that Pfizer’s children’s vaccine is safe and effective. In the USA alone, 8.7 million doses were given to 5-to-11-year-olds between 3 November and 19 December 2021.
"Like New Zealand, the USA has a system, called VAERS, for people to report any potential side effects from vaccination. An analysis of the data shows there were no deaths related to vaccination and of the 4,249 reports to VAERS, most were for errors with how the vaccine was stored or prepared or for side effects like fatigue or headaches," Wiles said.
"The VAERS data also shows that myocarditis after the Pfizer vaccine is very rare in this age group. There were just 15 reports, of which 11 were verified. At the time of the analysis, seven of the children had already recovered and the other four were recovering.
"It is a privilege to have such a safe and effective vaccine being rolled out to our younger children and for me highlights once again the global disparities in access to vaccines. Current data shows that just 13 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered per 100 people for those in low-income countries.
"For high-income countries, it's 173 doses per 100 people. No one is safe until we are all safe, so I hope that people will take up the opportunity to get their children vaccinated, to get their own booster doses, and to advocate for access to vaccines for those less privileged than us."
1:52pm - Queensland recorded 23,630 new cases on Friday and three new COVID-19 related deaths.
The popular tourist state opens its domestic borders on Saturday.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the deaths as tragic:
"We extend our sympathies to people who have lost loved ones in their life - any death is a tragedy and to experience it during a pandemic is heartbreaking," she said.
1:40pm - New South Wales has recorded a record toll of 29 deaths and 63,018 new cases. The state also has 2525 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 184 of those in intensive care.
"We are currently tracking, on both the ICU and hospitalisation rate here in NSW, better than the best case scenario," state Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Friday morning.
"It is going to be a difficult few weeks ahead, but the tracking that we are releasing today is very reassuring and encouraging."
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. We are also asking people to regularly check the locations of interest as these are regularly updated and to follow the advice provided.
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.
There are 11 cases to report in Auckland today.
Health and welfare providers are now supporting 859 people in the region to isolate at home, including 184 cases.
There are four new cases in the Waikato today, four are linked to previous cases. Three are in Ngāruawāhia and one is in Huntly.
One new location of interest was confirmed in Te Aroha.
Pop-up testing sites are operating in Whitianga, Whiritoa, Te Kūiti, Taumarunui, Tokoroa, Ōtorohanga, Putāruru, Ngāruawāhia, Huntly and Hamilton today. For details of all dedicated testing sites including other general practices, please visit the Healthpoint website
Public Health staff, primary care and manaaki providers are supporting 29 cases to isolate at home.
Bay of Plenty
Today we are reporting one case in Bay of Plenty, who originally tested positive while in Waikato, but has a Bay of Plenty address. This case remains under investigation.
This case will be transferred to Waikato’s case total.
The two cases we reported yesterday are being included in today’s official tally of case numbers.
1:00pm - There are 18 new community cases in New Zealand and 43 new cases at the border. That brings the total of Omicron cases at the border to 266 Omicron detected since 1 December. Thirty four people remain in hospital with COVID-19, with none in ICU.
Full Ministry of Health statement:
Forty five percent of the population currently eligible have now received their booster shot.
We are strongly recommending boosters for anyone over the age of 18 who had their second vaccine dose at least four months ago.
Vaccination remains our key defence against all variants of COVID-19 including Omicron.
Today we are reporting 43 people at the border with COVID-19. New Zealand continues to see many border cases arriving from overseas, reflecting the growing number of Omicron cases globally.
The seven-day rolling average of border cases is 31.
As part of our collective preparations for Omicron please check your details are up to date with your regular healthcare provider and in the COVID-19 Tracer app.
To date, there are now 266 Omicron COVID-19 cases detected at the border since 1 December.
During the same period, more than 18,000 people have arrived and been processed through Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities
New Zealand has taken steps to manage the risk of a community Omicron outbreak linked to border cases, including increasing the period overseas arrivals must spend in MIQ, and shifting the focus of whole genome sequencing to areas of most risk, such as for any cases in border workers.
The MIQ system exists to catch cases at the border. Managed isolation and quarantine facilities are well set up to care for Omicron cases and protect the community. The staff at facilities are experienced in managing and caring for positive cases.
All Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities follow very strict Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures developed by the Ministry of Health to manage the risks of spreading COVID-19. People in MIQ undergo regular routine testing.
All travellers arriving into New Zealand require a pre-departure test. Travellers must receive their test 48 hours prior to travel. Travellers also must complete four tests while in managed isolation. This testing regime provides an extra level protection to our existing border measures.
COVID-19 vaccine update
- Vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people): 3,986,487 first doses (95%); 3,890,397 second doses (92%); 34,606 third primary doses; 678,943 booster doses
- Vaccines administered yesterday: 1,421 first doses; 3,595 second doses; 591 third primary doses and 41,664 booster doses.
- Māori (percentage of eligible people): 505,366 first doses (88%); 473,566 second doses (83%).
- Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people): 273,827 first doses (96%); 264,167 second doses (92%).
Vaccination rates by DHB with active cases (percentage of eligible people)
- Northland DHB: First doses (89%); second doses (85%)
- Auckland Metro DHBs: First doses (96%); second doses (95%)
- Waikato DHB: First doses (94%); second doses (91%)
- Bay of Plenty DHB: First doses (94%); second doses (91%)
- Lakes DHB: First doses (92%); second doses (89%)
- Wairarapa DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (93%)
- Capital and Coast DHB: First doses (98%); second doses (97%)
- Hutt Valley DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (94%)
- Canterbury DHB: First doses (98%); second doses (97%)
- Cases in hospital: 34; North Shore: 4; Auckland: 8; Middlemore: 17; Tauranga: 4; Waikato 1
- Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only): Unvaccinated or not eligible (9 cases / 37%); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (5 case / 21%); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (9 cases / 37%); unknown (1 case / 4%).
- Average age of current hospitalisations: 50
- Cases in ICU or HDU: 2; Middlemore: 1; Tauranga: 1
- Seven day rolling average of community cases: 26
- Seven day rolling average of border cases: 31
- Number of new community cases: 18
- Number of new cases identified at the border: 43
- Location of new community cases: Auckland (11), Waikato (4), Bay of Plenty (1), Canterbury (2),
- Number of community cases (total): 11,254 (in current community outbreak)
- Cases epidemiologically linked (total): 8,542
- Number of active cases (total): 618 (cases identified in the past 21 days and not yet classified as recovered)
- Confirmed cases (total): 14,572
- Number of active contacts being managed (total): 4,784
- Percentage who has received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements): 82%
- Percentage who has returned at least one result: 80%
12:20pm - The AV Club in Auckland has also been added to the locations of interest by the Ministry of Health.
People who visited the bar between 11:00pm and 4:00am on Friday should self-isolate.
12:00 - It could only take two to four weeks for Omicron to overtake Delta in New Zealand, if it gets through the border.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson told the NZ Herald if the new variant broke through now it would be the dominant strain by mid-February.
The spokesperson also said district health boards were doing significant work to prepare for an Omicron outbreak.
11:37am - Three popular central Auckland bars are among the latest locations of interest.
Danny Doolans and Round 6 are both listed as high risk on the Ministry of Health website. People who visited Dannny Doolans on Friday and Round 6 and Saturdays in Britomart on certain hours should self-isolate Immediately.
Click here for the full list.
11:30am - Kia ora, good morning and welcome to Newshub's live updates for Thursday.
AstraZeneca said preliminary data from a trial showed its COVID-19 shot, Vaxzevria, generated an increase in antibodies against the Omicron and other variants when given as a third booster dose.