New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is self-isolating after flying on a plane with a flight attendant, who tested positive for Omicron. File photo by David Rowland/EPA-EFE
January 29 (UPI) — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro were in isolation on Saturday after close contact with someone infected with the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Ardern and Kiro were on a flight last week from Kerikeri to Auckland with a flight attendant who tested positive for Omicron, and everyone on the flight was considered close contacts, the The New Zealand Herald reported.
“The Prime Minister is asymptomatic and feeling well,” the Prime Minister said. the government said in a statement On Saturday. “As per advice from the Ministry of Health, she will be tested immediately tomorrow and will be in isolation until Tuesday.”
All other passengers on the flight must self-isolate, get tested immediately and remain isolated for 10 days after exposure, according to the government.
“Whole genome sequencing for the case has been requested with an outcome expected on Sunday,” the government statement said. “The result should indicate that the case was infected with the Omicron variant and the public health response reflects this.”
Ardern and Kiro were returning from Waitangi last Saturday after “undertaking advance filming at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, at the invitation of the Waitangi National Trust for the Waitangi Day programme”, the statement said.
Waitangi Day is New Zealand’s national holiday, marking the anniversary of the initial signing on 6 February 1840 of the Treaty of Waitangi, the nation’s founding document.
The isolation of New Zealand officials comes amid an expected rise in the Omicron variant.
Dr Dion O’Neale, a COVID-19 expert from the University of Auckland, told the New Zealand Herald that since current vaccines protect against Delta more than Omicron, the latter is “growing much faster” and the country is expected to see a rapid doubling of Omicron cases over the coming week.
“Most countries and states around the world saw a double time of about three days once you saw an outbreak of Omicron take off,” O’Neale said. “So if we register it at around 100 cases today and if there’s a good chance the majority of them will be Omicron, in a week, that’s around twice that number. So that’s It’s 200 in the middle of the week and 400 a day maybe by the weekend.”
“It wouldn’t be surprising to see 500 cases by next weekend,” he added.