NZ's tight border can keep Omicron out for now - modeller

Source: 1News

New Zealand’s tight international border controls can keep the Omicron variant of Covid-19 out of the country for now, modeller Michael Plank says.

The University of Canterbury professor told 1News there was a lot to learn about the new variant, which was only discovered last week in South Africa.

“So far, we know that this new variant is spreading very quickly in South Africa — faster than the existing Delta variant.”

But, scientists don’t yet know the exact characteristics that allow Omicron to spread quickly, whether existing Covid-19 vaccines would be effective against it, and if it caused a more severe illness than Delta, Plank said.

“We need to be on high alert at the border,” he added.

Plank said the good thing was that New Zealand had a few layers of protection in place at the border. These included genomic sequencing of cases, the MIQ systems, and travel restrictions from some countries in southern Africa where the variant has been found.

“All together, this should allow us to keep the variant out of the community — at least in the short-term — which will buy us some time to find out more about the new variant.”