As countries around the world experience Omicron outbreaks, we’re taking steps now to ensure we’re as prepared as possible and our communities are protected.
Kiwis all across New Zealand have been able to enjoy summer safely, spending the break with loved ones and doing the things we enjoy. High vaccination rates and the safeguards of the traffic light system have meant we could make the most of the holiday without a jump in COVID-19 cases.
Together, we’ve reduced the spread of Delta, putting us in one of the best positions in the world to fight Omicron. However, we’ve seen overseas that this new variant is the most transmissible yet and is harder to control once it arrives in the community. With Omicron, we know that this arrival is a matter of when, not if.
That’s why we’re doing everything we can now to prepare.
Moving to Red to slow the spread
While we can’t stop Omicron, we can slow it down. That’s why all of New Zealand is staying at Orange for now, so we remain on guard and ready.
As soon as Omicron enters the community, the whole country will move into Red within 24 to 48 hours. Red doesn’t mean lockdowns, or regional boundaries. It means increasing mask use, changing the way we interact in hospitality settings like cafes and restaurants, and reducing gathering sizes.
These steps will help us to minimise the number of Omicron cases, and allow our health system to provide the care that people need.
Boosting protection through vaccines
The vaccine is also an important part of preparing for Omicron. While two doses of the vaccine makes a huge difference for the Delta variant, the evidence tells us that it’s the booster that will help us get through Omicron. Those who have received a booster dose are much less likely to get severely ill and end up in hospital. So, boosters will be a really important way of making sure our health system can manage.
From Friday 4 February, if you’re 18 and over and had your second dose at least three months ago, you can get your booster dose. You can book it now using BookMyVaccine.nz or by calling 0800 28 29 26. Many vaccination clinics are also accepting walk-ins.
Parents and caregivers also now have the opportunity to protect their children aged 5 to 11 with the child version of the Pfizer vaccine. Immunised kids are less likely to get really sick with COVID, and less likely to pass on the virus to vulnerable whānau. Over 500 sites across the country are currently offering vaccines for tamariki. You can find a nearby site and book an appointment now.
Preparing with your family
While we’re better placed than most countries to minimise the spread of Omicron, we are likely to have higher case numbers than we have ever experienced before. This means you’re more likely to be a close contact and have to isolate at home. Now is a good time to think about what you and your family would need to have on hand if you need to isolate. You can find some handy ideas here.
This stage of the pandemic is different but, just like before, when COVID changes, we change. We won’t stop Omicron, but we can slow it down so that when it arrives, our health system can manage. This will require a team effort. To help us prepare, you can get boosted, think about what you need at home, and keep masking up and scanning in.
For more information about the COVID-19 response, and life at Red and Orange, visit Unite Against COVID-19.
Note: This post was updated on 2 February 2022 to reflect the reduced gap between the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the booster dose.