COVID-19: Omicron 'inevitable' but it won't mean more lockdowns - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

The Prime Minister says Omicron's arrival in New Zealand is "inevitable" - but it won't mean more lockdowns.

In a sit-down interview with Newshub, Jacinda Ardern said: "There's no evidence to suggest that we would need to change the system we have."

New Zealand was advantaged because there were still border controls that would catch the highly transmissible new strain, said Ardern.

And keeping managed isolation meant there was more time to learn about Omicron.

"We've got two layers of protection, of course - we've all of the things we're doing before people come to New Zealand and also we're still using managed isolation.

"A lot of countries have stood that up - we already had it," Arden said.

"So of course we anticipate - as we do with other cases - picking it up within that quarantine system rather than in our community.

"At the same time Omicron is a form of COVID - we will have the evidence around how it behaves even before we see it more prevalent."

New Zealand could also learn from northern hemisphere countries which were heading into winter with vaccinated populations.

"I'm cautiously optimistic because we can learn from others. We can create a system that lasts the distance."

The country was also in a better position than the one it was in 12 months ago because early evidence suggested vaccines were still effective against Omicron and New Zealand had purchased antiviral treatments to treat COVID.

But Ardern was certain Omicron would reach New Zealand because "the goal of a virus is to be more transmissible".

"We've said it's inevitable. Therefore what we're doing is to try and slow it down. Firstly, slow it from reaching our borders then catch it at our borders because we still have border measures."

Watch Newshub Live at 6pm for more of the exclusive interview.