PM cancels her own wedding as Omicron cases rise in NZ
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her own wedding, and expressed her sympathy and understanding for all those affected by restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19.
New Zealand is imposing further mask rules and limiting gatherings after a cluster of nine cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus emerged. The cluster has been linked to a wedding, and involved travel between the country's North and South Islands.
A family flew from Auckland in the North to the South Island wedding attended by 100 people. The family and a flight attendant tested positive.
New Zealand is now imposing a limit of 100 customers indoors in hospitality settings and for events such as weddings, or 25 people if the venues are not using vaccine passes.
"Our strategy is to slow the spread of Omicron down," Ms Ardern told reporters.
"We know we will see far more cases than we have in the two years of the pandemic to date. But the difference to previous outbreaks is that we are vaccinated and we are even better prepared."
Announcing that her wedding, scheduled for later this month, would not go ahead, Ms Ardern said she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. She was due to marry long-term partner Clarke Gayford, a television presenter. The couple have a three-year-old daughter.
Asked by reporters how she felt, Ms Ardern replied: "Such is life."
She added: "I am no different to, dare I say it, to thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience."
Ms Ardern encouraged more people to get a booster dose of a vaccine before Omicron takes hold.
About 56 per cent of those eligible have had the third shot. "We need to get that number higher, quicker", she said.
She outlined three phases in the government's response.
Stage one, when there are fewer than 1,000 cases a day, will still be a "stamp it out" approach with contact tracing, polymerase chain reaction testing and self-isolation.
Stage two will be an adjustment phase with the focus on those at greater risk of severe illness.
Stage three, when there may be thousands of daily cases, will see changes to contact tracing, shorter isolation periods and a test-to-work regime to ensure essential businesses and supply chains continue to operate.