• Covid-19: NZ to stay at orange traffic light setting, reinfection rules change

Covid-19: NZ to stay at orange traffic light setting, reinfection rules change

A recent surge in Covid cases will see the country remain at traffic light level Orange, and a range of additional measures put in place to help manage a recent rise in cases,

Covid-19 Response Minister Ayesha Verrall said the decision to remain at Orange was due to hospitals being under pressure from flu and Covid-19. 

"Moving back to Red is unnecessary at the moment. We can continue to manage the virus at Orange, but are putting in place a range of additional measures to help manage a recent rise in cases," Dr Verrall said.

"Yesterday the seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases was 5808 and there were 395 people in hospital and 8 in ICU. For comparison when we moved out of red in April the rolling average of cases was nearly 10,000 a day and there were over 500 people in hospital including 28 in ICU."

Today the Government also made changes to reinfection advice. Anyone who experienced symptoms 29 days or longer after a previous infection must test and isolate if they return a positive result.

"This is a change from earlier advice which was that people would not need to re-test if they had tested positive for Covid-19 within the past 90 days and is based on the latest international evidence and the need to isolate quickly people with reinfections.

However, Household Contacts who have had Covid-19 within 90 days will not need to isolate, unless they are symptomatic.

"There is clear updated advice on what they should do to reduce risks to themselves and others.

"While reinfections are low at the moment they are likely to increase. The B.5 variant of Omicron is predicted to become the dominant strain in the country in the coming weeks and is a different variant to what most New Zealanders caught the first time around.

The Government is also providing a range of measures to help schools reduce the risk of winter illness spreading.

The Ministry of Education has already secured a supply of 10 million special child-sized masks and intends to have them ready for distribution at the start of Term 3. This means there will be 50 child-size masks provided for every child in Years 4 to 7 in schools and kura throughout the country from now until the end of 2022.

This is in addition to the adult-sized mask offered to all school children from Year 8 and up. Around 20,000 to 30,000 masks are already being distributed to students and staff every week across the country.

The Government will also be providing additional funding this winter to encourage schools and centre-based early childhood services to maintain healthy levels of heating and ventilation to help reduce colds, flu and COVID from spreading.

"Good ventilation over winter can lead to some heat loss and higher heating bills. The winter energy payments will help reassure schools and services that they can balance heating and ventilation, without unaffordable energy bills."

Dr Verrall said the Government does not usually explicitly fund energy costs for services, but the Covid-19 pandemic is a unique situation.

"The scientific evidence is clear that good ventilation helps prevent the spread of COVID-19."

"With these measures, alongside additional support in schools and early childhood services, the Government is stepping up our response to help reduce the spread of Covid. We always said this was going to be a challenging winter and we need everyone to play their part to help us get through safely," Dr Verrall said.