Omicron: What you need to know about Phase 3

Source: 1News

New Zealand will move to Phase 3 of the Omicron response from 11.59pm tonight, with today's daily Covid case numbers around 5000.

Rapid antigen test.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the phase change, and also confirmed Thursday's community case total was "around 5000".

So what does this phase look like?

The definition of close contacts has been changed, and rapid antigen tests (RATs) will become the primary mode of testing for the virus, Hipkins said.

Close contacts and isolating

Only someone who has Covid-19, their household contacts, or household-like contacts will need to isolate. This means only the highest-risk contacts would need to isolate.

All other contacts will be asked to monitor for symptoms, but they don't need to isolate, Hipkins said.

Anyone who tests positive for the virus will still need to isolate for 10 days. The Ministry of Health has said they can then self-release after 10 days.

Household contacts or household-like contacts will need to isolate until the person who is positive completes 10 days of isolation. A test on day three and day 10 will be required, or if symptomatic.

Close contacts who don’t live with the positive case don't need to isolate, but they do need to monitor for symptoms for 10 days.

There will be extra support in place if a health or critical worker is a contact.

Testing

Hipkins confirmed RATs would become the primary means of testing for Covid-19, although the Ministry of Healh states RATs may be used in addition to PCR testing for symptomatic people and close contacts.

It's expected the tests will be available for the public to purchase from March.

Until then, Hipkins said RATs would be available at thousands of sites across the country, including GPs and pharmacies to critical workers.

He said there were "millions more of the tests arriving in the coming days".

Asymptomatic healthcare and critical workers who are close contacts can return to work after a negative RAT.

PCR testing will be used on priority groups.

Contact tracing

The use of new self-investigation tools will be used, which Hipkins said would help keep track of exposure events and locations.

Cases will still be notified by text and asked to complete contact tracing forms and to use the self-investigation tool.

People who have tested positive for the virus are also now in charge of letting their close contacts know about their result.

Most people who have the virus will be able to look after themselves at home, while health workers will focus on those needing the most help.

Health officials will focus support on those who don’t have access to technology.