Omicron in NZ a matter of 'when, not if' - Jacinda Ardern

Rebecca Moore
Source: 1News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the emergence of the Covid-19 variant Omicron in the New Zealand community is a matter of "when, not if".

"At some point we will see Omicron in the community," she said to reporters on Monday, ahead of receiving her booster vaccine dose.

Ardern said if there was an Omicron outbreak "we would look to move into red settings (in the traffic light system) as a way to slow down the spread".

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"New Zealanders have had the break that we'd hoped they would get, but we know that with Omicron it is a case of when, not if and that is why the booster campaign is just so critical."

Government Ministers are meeting this week to discuss "plans and preparation" around Omicron and to look at the current traffic light settings.

Her comments come as New Zealanders around the country are able to book booster vaccines online from Monday. The recommended time between a second dose and a booster shot was reduced from six months to four at the end of last year, due to the Omicron strand.

"Everyone has worked incredibly hard to keep Omicron at bay, but the reality is it's a case of when not if. But we have something others haven't had and that is to boost before it arrives," Ardern said.

"Two doses is great, but for Omicron that booster is boosting people's immunity and better preparing them for what we know is inevitable.

"We're encouraging all eligible New Zealanders to please get your booster as soon as possible."

Ardern said the number of people booking boosters on Monday was 66,000 bookings as of midday.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Health reported 22,149 booster doses were administered the previous day, bringing the total in New Zealand to 742,123.

"New Zealand’s vaccine rollout remains our key defence against all variants of Covid-19, including Omicron," a ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

"With 93 per cent of the eligible population now double-dosed, and the booster programme underway, New Zealanders are well protected.

"We want vaccinations to continue to increase and ask everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. This is also a timely reminder for people over the age of 18 to get their booster shot if it has been four months since their last vaccine dose."

Monday also marks first day of the vaccine rollout for five to 11-year-olds.