This update (22 March) shares key information about the Government’s response to COVID-19

 Key things to note:

  • Analysis from the Ministry of Health confirms Auckland has likely seen the peak of Omicron cases and are on their way down.
  • International experience of Omicron suggests that in New Zealand we can expect cases will likely remain in the low thousands per day for some time.
  • Case numbers globally have started to rise again in recent weeks.
  • General Practices (GPs) are having 15% more encounters with people each day compared to 2021.
  • Additions have been made to the self-assessment form to ensure people’s needs are accounted for during isolation.
  • The influenza vaccination programme starts in early April.
  • There are 17,020 new cases in the community, currently 1,016 people in hospital, 25 cases in high dependency or intensive care units.  A total of 15 deaths were reported today.

Current outbreak update

  • Analysis from the Ministry of Health confirms Auckland has likely seen the peak of Omicron cases and are on their way down.
  • Case numbers across Auckland today were 4,291.  Down by a third based on 13,252 cases reported on 4 March.
  • Hospitalisations are also levelling off in the Northern Regions DHBs (Northland, Waitemata, Auckland and Counties Manukau) now they are passed the peak of the Omicron surge.
  • There are encouraging signs that cases are peaking in the Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Hauora, Tairāwhiti, Taranaki, Waikato and Wellington regions.
  • Case numbers are still increasing in the South Island.

International Comparison Update

  • International experience of Omicron suggests that in New Zealand we can expect cases will likely remain in the low thousands per day for some time.
  • Hospitalisation numbers will likely peak within the next two weeks and then trend downwards in April, though likely relatively slowly and we expect considerable regional variation.
  • We can expect ongoing waves of COVID with elevated base levels of cases and hospitalisations.
  • Case numbers globally have started to rise again in recent weeks.
  • There are increased case numbers again across the UK, with Scotland hit the hardest by a surge in cases of Omicron BA2 infections and case numbers just under their previous peak and hospitalisation figures at their highest level since 2020.
  • Globally, it is likely that there will be further waves of Omicron and new variants with unknown severity – and New Zealand will face these as well.
  • Counties experiencing another surge in cases from Omicron appear to be more affected by the more transmissible Omicron BA2 subvariant. In New Zealand, our current high prevalence of Omicron BA2 may mean that we don’t see an additional surge of the same size found overseas.

Self-assessment form update

  • Additions have been made to the self-assessment form to ensure people’s needs are accounted for during isolation.
  • People receive a text message when they test positive for COVID-19 which links to the self-assessment forum.  That form is vital for care coordination hubs to understand any needs people in the community may have while they are isolating.
  • A new additional to the form allows people to declare a disability they are living with.  This alerts the coordination hub to ensure they are prioritised for contact to find out their needs during isolation.
  • An additional new feature of the form also allows people to flag if they have a problem with where they are isolating.  This will enable the coordination team to follow up with people who may need support to isolate.

Vaccination programmes

  • The influenza vaccination programme starts in early April.
  • Extra vaccines have been ordered and the criteria for eligibility for free vaccination has been widened.
  • Other infectious diseases, particularly flu and RSV/Respiratory Syncytial Virus (in children), could generate additional demand on the health system over winter.
  • The Ministry of Health is also looking at the role of a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine for vulnerable groups, including older people.
  • People who aren’t already, are strongly encouraged to ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations, which includes getting a booster when it’s due.