Testing update

  • Phase one of the response to Omicron means continuing with the same testing, tracing isolation, quarantine settings as used before.
  • However, it is important to note that as case numbers increase, testing, tracing isolation, quarantine settings will change.
  • Critical workers identified as close contacts will be able to use proof of a negative RAT to return to work during their required period of isolation if they are not symptomatic.
  • The Ministry of Health has increased PCR testing capacity to 60,000 tests a day with a surge capacity of nearly 78,000 a day, which can be sustained for seven days.
  • Once Omicron is more widespread in the community, RATs will be more common in the government’s testing strategy.
  • There are currently 4.6 million RATs in the country, with an additional 83 million on order.

Omicron and Business Continuity Planning

  • Omicron has emerged as the dominant COVID-19 variant around the world. The majority of cases detected at the border are Omicron cases.  
  • This has seen less severe clinical outcomes, but significantly higher rates of transmission.  Given the higher rates of transmission, it is expected that if Omicron makes it into the community, we expect to see case numbers double every 2-3 days. This is consistent with international trends.
  • Many people will be affected, and workplaces will have high levels of staff on sick leave or isolation (as high as 25%). This means that council Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) are critical should an outbreak of Omicron occur in the community.
  • Central government agencies are considering a range of options including additional protection in the event of an Omicron outbreak. We anticipate that these can be implemented within the existing framework.