Covid 19 Omicron variant outbreak: The Big Boost vaccination drive continues to attract high numbers

Booster jabs equivalent to the number of people who call Palmerston North home have gone into the arms of Kiwis since Friday afternoon, figures released last night showed.

The Big Boost began this week, and continues today, in a push to get as many eligible Kiwis fully protected from Covid-19’s highly infectious Omicron variant before massive numbers of positive cases are expected in coming weeks.

As of 7pm last night 84,454 doses had been given since 3pm Friday under the public health initiative, just a few thousand below the number of people living in the territorial authority of Palmerston North City.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield challenged more Kiwis to join the ranks of the boosted.

“It’d be great to crack some days up in the 80s, 90s, even crack 100,000, we can do that.”

The jab rush came as the daily number of new Covid -19 cases in the community again reached a new high – 454, with 27 people in hospital. None were in ICU.

The seven-day rolling average of community cases is 275, with the same average for border cases 28. Eight cases were identified at the border yesterday.

The record number also revealed the spread of the virus through the country.

There are cases in Northland (12), Auckland (294), Waikato (72), Bay of Plenty (23), Lakes (8), Hawke’s Bay (7), MidCentral (5), Taranaki (1), Wellington (5), Hutt Valley (12), Wairarapa (2) and Southern (13).

A case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in South Canterbury, taking to two the number of active cases in the area, the Ministry of Health confirmed yesterday.

Health chiefs are urging anyone in the region who has any coldor flu symptoms to get tested, with a general reminder for all Kiwis that only those withsymptoms, or who have been at a location of interest, get tested so capacity isn’t overwhelmed.

There were 24,820 Covid-19 tests across New Zealand in the past 24 hours, up on the seven-day rolling average of 19,296. Seven million rapid antigen tests are in New Zealand, according to the ministry.

Disruption to services are also emerging in pockets of the country.

All firefighters from Winton’s Volunteer Fire Brigade are in isolation after a fellow firefighter tested positive for Covid-19.

Southland Fire and Emergency New Zealand confirmed the case in a post on Facebook yesterday, reassuring the public neighbouring brigades would provide cover while Winton firefighters were tested.

“[Winton’s] fire trucks will be out of service until they are able to come out of isolation.”

Meanwhile, among new locations of interest last night was a flight from Rarotonga to Auckland.

Flight NZ945 arrived in Auckland on February 8 and is considered high risk.

Those seated in rows 53 to 57 are considered close contacts, the Ministry of Health said.

“Self-isolate, test immediately and on day five after you were exposed at this location of interest. Further isolation and testing requirements will be provided by Public Health.”

Other new locations of interestincluded The Ballarat pub in Queenstown (high risk) from 8pm to 11pm on February 3, Cardrona Hotel on February 5 and Wanaka Lavender Farm on February 7.

Vaccination milestones also continued to be reached.

The eligible population of Tairāwhiti was now 90 per cent fully vaccinated, the 18th district health board area to do so, and its eligible Māori population reached 90 per cent for first doses.

Nationally, 95 per cent of people aged over 12 are fully vaccinated, and 61 per cent of those aged over 18 and due for their booster had had it, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“And this is climbing quickly.”

About 1.1 million people needed to get their booster in 17 days to reach 90 per cent by the end of the month – almost 65,000 per day.

Meanwhile, anti-vaccine mandate protesters continued yesterday to occupy Parliament grounds for the fifth day in a tense standoff with police.

Former Northland MP Matt King joined those protesting yesterday, hours after quitting his National Party membership.

“For me, mandates are a line in the sand because it’s my fundamental right … to choose what goes in my body. I don’t accept the ‘greater good’ argument.”

National has publicly supported vaccination mandates, although leader Christopher Luxon wants a timeline for their use.

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