COVID-19: Dr Ashley Bloomfield says NZ in better position to deal with Omicron outbreak than 'number' of other countries

The Director-General of Health says New Zealand is in a better position to handle an Omicron outbreak compared to "a number of other countries".

New Zealand is yet to see community spread of the variant but on Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned it's "a case of when, not if".

Ardern said when the variant is spreading in the community regions will likely be put back into the red setting. 

But speaking to Newstalk ZB on Tuesday, Ashley Bloomfield said the country is in a good position to handle an outbreak. 

"We are not as vulnerable as a number of other countries because we have very high vaccination rates… and a lot of that is quite recent," he told Newstalk ZB. 

"In the meantime, the teams are working very hard to keep the virus out of the country for as long as possible."

New Zealand's vaccination rates are higher than many other countries with 93 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated. And 95 percent  partially inoculated. Booster shots are also now avaible for people four months after their second dose. 

Auckland, Canterbury and Capital and Coast DHBs have the highest rates in the country with 97 percent of eligible Kiwis double jabbed.

Despite that Bloomfield said planning is already underway to manage any future Omicron outbreaks. 

"A number of elements of that plan are already in place including a switch to requiring everyone to do 10 days managed isolation coming into the country, [and] delaying that proposal for self-isolation for people coming in from Australia and other places, which would have started by now.

Bloomfield said the booster programme is key, urging anyone who is eligible to get it. 

He also revealed the traffic light settings are being reviewed to ensure they're effective against Omicron. 

"One of the things we are looking at is the current measures in each of those traffic light settings… because it is based on a Delta-type outbreak," he told Newstalk ZB. "It's served us very well…it is effective in supporting a Delta-type outbreak, but we know Omicron is a different beast really. It's more transmissible [and] the vaccine isn't as effective in terms of transmission, so it's important we do look at those settings."

It comes after vaccinations started for children aged 5 to 11 on Monday, meaning about 476,000 kids are now eligible to be immunised against the virus.