COVID-19: Epidemiologist Rod Jackson says New Zealand's Omicron response set to be 'better than anybody else'

COVID-19: Epidemiologist Rod Jackson says New Zealand's Omicron response set to be 'better than anybody else'
Photo credit: Newshub/Getty

As Omicron surges around the world, New Zealand continues to manage the new variant better than most countries around the globe.  

So much so, New Zealand saw cases drop on Waitangi Day with the Ministry of Health announcing 208 new cases on Sunday compared to Saturday's record day of 243 COVID infections. 

Epidemiologist Rod Jackson has praised New Zealand's response and believes we are well-placed and timing our run against Omicron perfectly.

"I think we're going to do better than anybody else, just as we've done better than anybody else to date with all the previous variants," Jackson told Newshub. 

"I think we're on track to do better than any other country with Omicron."

The team of 5 million is about to head into its biggest COVID test, and Prof Jackson has just given us a pre-match pep talk.

He said New Zealand will perform better than any other country against Omicron, but had strong words for those on the bench - the unvaccinated - saying the variant shouldn't be underestimated.

Aucklanders at The Cloud on Sunday were looking rather wet and windy with the weather not doing much to boost numbers at Auckland's newest pop-up vaccination centre.

But people trickled in for testing as the rain poured down.

"You know most people are getting maximum protection from vaccination boosters and [rates] are going up really fast which is fantastic," Prof Jackson said.

But he had a strong message for the unvaccinated.

"The commentaries out there are that Omicron is significantly less severe than Delta - not true for the unvaccinated; in fact, it's worse for the unvaccinated, and the reason is because it's going to come really rapidly," he explains.

Prof Jackson said it's almost as severe for the unvaccinated in terms of mortality and hospitalisations.

"It's just ridiculous that you won't go and protect yourself from a disease that's killed 15 million people worldwide," he said.  "It's killing almost a 100 people every day in Australia."

There have been more than five million recorded deaths but global excess deaths are estimated at double or even quadruple that figure.

Australia saw another fall in new cases on Sunday, a sign it's past the peak.

"The trend is down which is pleasing," director, Health Protection, NSW Health, Dr Jeremy McAnulty said. "All indications are we're over the other side." 

But hospitalisations remain high.

"What we have seen is the absolute peak in numbers and yet our ICU system has held strong," Australian Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

In the US, COVID has now claimed more than 900,000 lives, and despite cases falling, deaths are rising, currently averaging 2400 a day.

In Canada, protests against mandates continued for the eighth day. 

In Denmark, they scrapped most pandemic restrictions this week, the Copenhagen Light Festival perhaps signalling a brighter future after they reclassified COVID-19 as a disease that no longer poses a threat to society.

Now it's our turn.

Watch the full story above. 

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the average number of daily deaths in the US from 24,000 to 2400 and to add context around Prof Jackson's statement 15 million people have died from the virus.