New Zealand eases Covid crowd rules in time for New Years …

Posted: January 3, 2022 at 2:09 am

New Zealand has eased rules on public gatherings in time for New Years Eve after a scare over community cases of the new Omicron variant.

The country is set to lead the worlds celebrations of the new year at midnight on Friday and crowds will be allowed to gather in Auckland for the first time since August to join in the party after the citys Covid traffic-light settings were moved from red to orange.

New Zealand is traditionally one of the first countries to bring in the new year before time differences usher in midnight elsewhere but the festivities had been threatened by tight coronavirus restrictions in place for months.

Under orange settings, the bars, restaurants and cafes that enforce vaccine pass requirements can remove crowd size limits and the requirement to sit down, allowing people to dance the night away.

Many other districts, including Taup, Rotorua lakes districts, Kawerau, Whakatne, ptiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu also moved to orange at midnight on Thursday. Only Northland has been left on red.

The move comes despite cases of Omicron, which is ripping through many countries including Australia, the US and the UK, emerging in New Zealand this week.

The first came when a traveller from the UK arrived in Auckland and reportedly returned a positive result on day nine of their self-isolation period 27 December. But they had previously returned three negative tests for Covid-19 while completing seven days of managed isolation at a facility in Auckland, the ministry of health said.

The person had been active in the community and visited a restaurant, a festival and shops.

However, on Friday the health ministry said that regarding the Omicron border case announced on Wednesday, microbiologists have advised that the risk of transmission from this case is low.

We can now confirm that the six close contacts who attended the Hidden Lakes festival have all tested negative for Covid-19. This means there was no public health risk associated with this event.

Contact tracing has now identified 88 close contacts for this case. This includes close contacts identified via case interviews and from locations of interest. Eighty of these contacts have been reached, all are isolating and have been tested. All results received to date have been negative. Contact tracers are working urgently to contact the eight close contacts who are yet to be reached.

An Air New Zealand crew member also tested positive for Omicron on 27 December and eight close contacts were isolating. The health ministry said on Friday that all eight had returned negative tests.

There are no locations of interest associated with this case and therefore the risk to the public has been determined to be low, it said.

On Friday, New Zealand reported 49 cases, a drop of 11 on the day before. There were 10 more Omicron cases at the border, taking the total to 88. There were no new Omicron cases.

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