There are 23 new Covid-19 cases in the community on Friday, the Ministry of Health has announced.

People tested at a pop-up Covid-19 testing station in Auckland (file photo). People tested at a pop-up Covid-19 testing station in Auckland (file photo). (Source: Getty)


The cases are in Auckland (11), Waikato (1), Lakes (8), Hawke’s Bay (2) and Nelson Marlborough (1).

Eighteen people are in hospital with the virus, including one in an intensive care or high dependency unit.

The ministry also said the case in Palmerston North had been confirmed as being infected with the Omicron variant.

The case became symptomatic on Wednesday and returned a positive test result that evening. They had been released from MIQ in Christchurch on Sunday, January 16 and had returned five negative tests throughout their stay.

Whole genome sequencing confirmed the Omicron variant last night and similarities have been identified to border cases in Auckland. There are no direct links, however.

“It has not identified any links to cases in the Christchurch MIQ facility, suggesting that the source of infection is offshore – either in the country they travelled from or during travel to New Zealand – rather than transmission in the Christchurch MIQ facility where they stayed,” the ministry said in a statement.

The locations of interest in the city linked to the case have been updated to say “this exposure is linked to an Omicron case”.

Apart from Cafe 116 in Terrace End which is considered a close contact location, the health advice for the other nine locations remains to monitor for symptoms of the virus for 10 days after being exposed to it.

Those who were at Cafe 116 on Wednesday, January 19 from 10.10-11.30am have been asked to isolate, get a test straight away and five days after they were exposed to the virus.

The ministry is also asking people who travelled on two flights the case did to get a test as soon as possible “as a precautionary measure”.

The flights are NZ550 from Christchurch to Auckland at 2pm on Sunday and flight NZ5121 from Auckland to Palmerston North, which departed at 4.55pm.

Possible Omicron case in Auckland

The ministry is also reporting one new “possible” Omicron case in Auckland.

“The person works at Auckland Airport and they are not linked to previously reported Auckland Omicron cases,” the ministry said.

Their infection was detected in a routine surveillance test taken on 18 January and a positive result was returned on Thursday.

“Whole genome sequencing is underway to determine the variant, though as a prudent measure, it is being treated as an Omicron case. Investigations are underway to determine the source of infection,” the ministry said.

Testing of both household and workplace close contacts is underway. One household member has returned a positive result and one has tested negative.

The case is considered to be infectious from January 16. Initial locations of interest are expected to be published today.

Nelson Tasman records nine cases

Returning to new community cases, the ministry said there were nine in the Nelson Tasman region. The cases all live in the same household.

One of the cases is included in Friday’s numbers, but the other eight will be included in Saturday’s numbers.

Recent travel to Auckland is being investigated as the source of the household’s infections.

“Case interviews are underway and locations of interest will be added to the ministry’s webpage where contacts at exposure events cannot be identified,” the ministry said.

The fresh case in Waikato lives in Hamilton and any links to earlier cases are being investigated.

The eight new cases in the Lakes DHB area are in the Rotorua area. Seven of them have been linked to earlier cases. The remaining case is still being investigated to determine any links.

There are also three new cases in Hawke’s Bay. One of them will be included in Saturday’s case numbers.

Forty-four cases in MIQ

The ministry also announced 44 cases at the border on Friday.

They had arrived in the country between January 8 and 19 from the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Malaysia, Canada, India, Australia, the US, Singapore, the UK, Egypt, Switzerland and Fiji.

They had tested positive for the virus between day 0 and 10.