Reducing the risk of Omicron, together

Throughout our COVID response, we’ve worked hard to protect lives and livelihoods. As we face Omicron, keeping people safe remains our goal. Since this new variant emerged overseas, we’ve been preparing for its arrival in New Zealand and, now that it’s here, we’ve got a plan to see us through. As with the rest of our COVID response, it’ll take a team effort.

Together, we’ve beaten back Delta and stepped up to be vaccinated in record numbers, leaving us in a strong position to take on Omicron. We’ve reinforced our protections to slow the spread, and there are simple steps everyone can take to help protect each other and our health system.

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What we’re doing

Boosting protection through vaccines

The latest data from outbreaks overseas shows that it’s the booster dose that is making a real difference against Omicron. We've brought forward boosters to ensure more New Zealanders could get better protection faster. While most other countries had to roll out boosters in the middle of outbreaks, our plan has given us a head start, with more than 1.3 million Kiwis already boosted.

Strengthening mask requirements

We know that wearing a mask, when done right, has a significant role to play in managing Omicron. So, from 4 February, stronger mask requirements come into force to ensure we’re all better protected against the new threat of Omicron.

Evidence shows that masks that fit properly around the nose and mouth help to reduce the spread of the virus. Our strengthened rules will include wearing an actual mask, not wrapping a bandana, scarf, or t-shirt around your face.

We’ll also need to wear a mask in more places, including restaurants and cafes, when we’re not eating or drinking.

Stepping up testing

Testing remains a cornerstone of our COVID response. We’ve ensured our PCR testing capacity can be increased by nearly 20,000 tests per day, to detect and help minimise the spread of Omicron. We now have the capacity to regularly process 58,000 tests a day, and can surge to more than 77,000 tests a day when needed.

We’ll also increase the use of rapid antigen tests, to ensure our critical workforces in places like hospitals and supermarkets can continue operating, even if case numbers increase.

Looking out for tamariki

Parents and caregivers 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. You can find a nearby site and book an appointment now.    

We know that good ventilation is also important, so 5,000 air cleaners have been ordered for New Zealand schools. This will help minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission in education settings and keep tamariki as safe as possible.

Supporting people and businesses

We’ve made sure there’s support for people when they need it. People who are isolating at home can call the COVID-19 Welfare helpline on 0800 512 337 for support with getting access to food, mobile data to keep in contact with friends and whānau, advice on leave and pay while isolating, and getting mental health or family violence support.

There’s also financial assistance available for workers who need to self-isolate because of COVID and can’t work from home, including the Leave Support Scheme and the Short-Term Absence Payment. We’re backing businesses too, with initiatives like the small business cash-flow scheme, the Regional Business Partner Network programme, and the events transition support scheme.

As we’ve done throughout COVID, we’ll continually monitor the situation and make changes to these supports as appropriate.

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What you can do

Get boosted

One of the most important ways you can reduce the risk of Omicron is by getting a booster dose as soon as you’re eligible. The latest data shows that boosters can provide better protection against Omicron, making you less likely to get seriously ill or end up in hospital. 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, or find your nearest clinic, by visiting or by calling 0800 28 29 26

Wear a mask

Overseas evidence shows that wearing a mask is a really important way to slow the spread of Omicron and protect the people you love. It’s a good idea to wear one whenever you leave home, and there are some places where masks are a must. You can find out more about this here.

We’ve updated our mask requirements in response to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Make sure to wear an actual mask, rather than wrapping a t-shirt, scarf, or bandana around your face. The widely available blue medical masks are a great choice.

Scan in

To help our contact tracing system work as efficiently as possible, make sure to scan in everywhere you go, turn on Bluetooth in your COVID Tracer App, or keep a written record of your movements. By ensuring you track your whereabouts, you’ll help to cut the amount of time potential cases are in the community.

Sort an isolation plan

Based on the outbreaks in other countries, we’re expecting to see more cases of Omicron in the community – which means you and your family are more likely to be required to self-isolate. It’s a good idea to make a plan now, so you’re ready to support yourself and your whānau.

There are a few simple but really important ways you can get prepared. Have a look around your home and check you have what you need to get by for a week or two. Work out how you will get your groceries – is there a friend or a neighbour who can deliver these?

If you’re in a position to do so, make sure you have some basic medications, like ibuprofen and throat lozenges, along with some masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning products, on hand.

For more ideas, check out this handy guide on how to get organised.

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Over the past two years, we’ve all pulled together to respond to COVID-19. Our approach has worked: New Zealand has some of the lowest rates of cases and deaths in the OECD, as well as a stronger-than-expected economy. It’s been a huge team effort – and, together, we can all help to reduce the risk of Omicron.

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For more information about our response to Omicron and life at Red, 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.