COVID-19: More than 13,500 businesses register for close contact scheme as Omicron cases soar

For the first time in the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand has recorded more than 1000 new cases of the virus.

By far the greatest concentration of those cases is in Auckland where there were 861, but numbers are growing all over the country.

Fifty-six people are in hospital on Wednesday, that's up 16 on yesterday - thankfully no one is in intensive care or high dependency.

A lot of people have been getting PCR tests; more than 28,000 in the last 24 hours and the Ministry of Health's asking people to be patient at testing sites.

But on Wednesday the quicker rapid antigen tests (RAT) became more widely used. As New Zealand settles into phase 2 of the Government's Omicron plan, which came into effect on Tuesday night, more than 13,500 businesses have registered with the close contact scheme. 

The scheme allows more than half a million critical workers to go back to work if they return a negative RAT.

An online order form for rapid tests went live on Wednesday - with pick-up points at sites across the country. 

The man in charge says so far, so good. 

"I haven't heard to the contrary and I would have if they weren't running smoothly," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

Dr Bloomfield.
Dr Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty Images

But it's not good according to some teachers, who are angry the Government hasn't defined them as critical and therefore not eligible for the close contact scheme.

"The worst-case scenario is we close so we can't continue with on-campus teaching and that would be a hindrance to every student in the school, no doubt about it," Auckland Grammar School headmaster Tim O'Connor said.

The rise of Omicron will also see a change in how new positive cases are managed - most will get a text message rather than a call.

People will then fill out an online form to give details, like close contacts and ask for further support.

"This is a pretty big shift psychologically for both our population and for the healthcare sector," Ministry of Health primary care lead Joe Bourne said.

Watch the full story above.