Omicron not a concern while in MIQ - Baker

Nicole Bremner
Source: 1News

A leading epidemiologist says there is no need to worry about Omicron while it remains in MIQ.

Cases of the highly infectious variant in MIQ increased to eight on Saturday, but Professor Michael Baker told 1News it was not an issue to be concerned about while it remains behind closed doors.

“New Zealanders shouldn't be overly worried about Omicron cases while they’re in MIQ,” Baker said.

“This is really a big responsibility for the government to assess this risk and manage it so we don’t get this virus transmitting in New Zealand.”

Professor Michael Baker.

In a statement on Saturday, a Ministry of Health spokesperson also offered assurance that Omicron’s arrival was being well managed at border quarantine facilities.

“Our health and MIQ teams around the country have been planning for Omicron cases at the border, and will continue to manage all arrivals cautiously.

"Our border settings means we are well placed to manage Omicron cases with isolation and testing requirements for all new arrivals, robust infection and prevention control and PPE measures at airports and MIQ facilities, and frequent surveillance testing of staff who have any contact with recent international returnees.

"Significant work has been undertaken by all DHBs, coordinated nationally by the Ministry of Health, to prepare for both managing Covid-19 in the community and any surge in case numbers."

Omicron’s arrival in New Zealand comes as cases surge in New South Wales which recorded 2,482 cases on Friday - it’s highest ever daily total of Covid-19 cases.

Surges of Covid cases are also causing alarm in the UK, France and Denmark.

Overnight, the French government announced a travel ban to France for UK citizens in response to high ICU case numbers in France.

In Scotland, the official advice to residents wanting to spend Christmas with loved ones is to stay and home and stay away from public places.