Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: 22,535 new Covid cases; five deaths

There are 22,535 new Covid-19 cases today and a further five deaths have been reported.

There are now 67 people who have died with Covid since the outbreak started in 2020.

Three per cent of New Zealand’s population are currently active cases of which there are 152,358.

There are 562 people in hospital and 11 in intensive care with 382 of those in Auckland. Seven people are in intensive care in Auckland. The average age of those needing hospital-level care is 53.

The case numbers are down on yesterday’s 23,183 but hospitalisations are up with 503 yesterday.

The latest deaths are:

• A patient with Covid died at Tauranga Hospital yesterday. The person was in hospital for an unrelated condition but had tested positive.

• A patient died at Waikato Hospital yesterday. They died of an unrelated medical condition and had tested positive for Covid.

• A person in Dunedin who died of an unrelated medical condition yesterday while receiving palliative care had tested positive for Covid.

• Two patients died in Middlemore Hospital, on March 1 and February 27. Both people had unrelated medical conditions and had tested positive for Covid.

Of the new community cases, 18,779 were from Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) and 3748 were from PCR tests.

The regional breakdown of cases is: 515 cases in Northland, 13,252 in Auckland, 1674 in Waikato, 1,248 in Bay of Plenty, 464 in Lakes, 325 in Hawke’s Bay, 364 in MidCentral, 79 inWhanganui, 257 in Taranaki, 155 in Tairāwhiti, 69 in Wairarapa, 1356 in Capital and Coast, 577 in Hutt Valley, 304 in Nelson Marlborough,1163 in Canterbury, 63 in South Canterbury, 632 in Southern, 16 in West Coastand 14 that is unknown.

There were eight cases at the border, with one confirmed and seven deemed probable.

On vaccinations the Ministry of Health said yesterday there were 315 first doses administered, 743 second doses; 99 third primary doses; 15,195 booster doses; 1,150 paediatric first doses and 223 paediatric second doses.

Managing symptoms at home

Auckland community testing sites were seeing heavy demand, said Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre’s chief clinical officer Andrew Old during a regional update.

He thanked people for their patience with testing staff and said it was very important people who tested positive via a RAT entered their result on My Covid Record.

Clinical immunologist and allergist Dr Anthony Jordan said the most important thing to reinforce was that Covid as an Omicron strain was a much milder strain than what we had experienced in the past.

Jordan said there were systems in place for those who began to feel worse. As hospital demand increases, as Covid-19 case numbers increase and some staff are required to isolate at home, more demand was being put on the system.

He apologised to anyone who was experiencing disruptions in their planned care due to the Covid-19 situation.

Jordan said a broad range of care options were available to those in the community needing care – including establishing four care hubs in Auckland.

He acknowledged the people in the health care sector that were doing their day to day work as well as supporting the Covid-19 response.

He asked people who were able to, to manage their cold and flu symptoms at home like they normally would to leave hospitals and emergency departments for those who needed it most.

Primary care co-clinical lead for whānau HQ Dr Christine McIntosh says all health care for Covid related conditions would be free.

Māori and Pasifika coordination hubs had been established, she said.

McIntosh said primary care and urgent care were feeling the pressure across the system as their practices were impacted by staff shortages and case numbers increased.

McIntosh said she recognised some people may feel anxious with the high case numbers but wanted to remind people that Omicron was a mild illness.

But it was important to stress that if people’s symptoms became severe, such as chest pains, dizziness or difficult breathing, they called for help, they called 111.

Old said the important thing with testing and RATs, health officials didn’t have as good of a picture of people who were taking tests, compared to PCR testing.

Regarding stockpiling, there was a lot of supply in the country, Old said.

“If you don’t need to get tested, then don’t get tested.” He added there is confidence that there are sufficient tests available.

RATs were not as sensitive for PCR. For those that had ongoing symptoms, but were returning negative results, especially two negative RATs, should then seek a PCR test.

Jordan said he would always like the booster rates to go faster but New Zealand was doing pretty good. “Although I’m happy, I’d be happier if it was much higher.”

For people who were ending up in hospital, Jordan said the vast majority were people they knew were at high risk of getting Covid, including people who had a certain illness that put them at higher risk of being hospitalised with Covid or people they had not been vaccinated.


The Ministry of Health said in a statement it was seeing reports of people who are symptomatic that are testing negative for Covid-19 in their initial test but later returning a positive test.

“Our advice is that even if you receive a negative test, you should stay at home until well and retest if symptoms persist or worsen.”

It also advised wearing a mask when people were out and about.

Masks reduced the risk of a person both catching and spreading the virus, said the ministry.

The ministry said more than 130,000 orders were placed through the RAT requester site for free Rapid Antigen Tests yesterday, covering more than half a million people, or about 2 million tests.

“The Ministry wants to reassure people that we have enough RATs to help New Zealand through a widespread Omicron outbreak in the coming months. Over the past week, 8.8m million RATs have been distributed. Over the weekend, another 8m RATs are expected to arrive in the country with another 99 million confirmed for delivery this month.

“So, while we are anticipating continued high demand, our request is to, please, be patient and kind to each other and staff. They are working as hard as they can,” said the ministry.

The ministry said the priority for free RATs remained those who were symptomatic or a household contact.

“Please do not order or request RATs from testing centre or collections sites unless you are unwell or a household contact. International travel pre-departure testing is not covered under the public health response. If you are well, you can still purchase RATs from one of a growing number of retailers which stock them.”

Old said they were working with collectives, such as the Auckland City Mission and Māori and Pacific providers, to ensure they had good access to RATs for the populations they serve.

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