Rapid antigen tests FREE and tightens mask rules banning scarves, bandanas and t-shirts as face coverings
- New Zealand anticipating a surge of Omicron Covid-19 cases as in Australia
- There have been only 29 Omicron cases in NZ, but 10 were recorded on Tuesday
- Big change was crackdown on habit of wearing scarves and t-shirts as masks
- One expert said pre-school kids as young as 2 years of age should wear masks
- NZ increased its testing capability, has ordered 80 million rapid antigen tests
PUBLISHED: 17:38 AEDT, 25 January 2022 | UPDATED: 18:56 AEDT, 25 January 2022
The New Zealand Prime Minister will outlaw the wearing of bandanas, scarves or t-shirts pulled over the nose from February 3 in public places such as gyms and cafes.
Meanwhile, one NZ expert claimed the mask changes could have gone further and mandated masks for kids as young as two.
Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plans to ban a slack New Zealand habit of wearing scarves, bandanas and t-shirts as face coverings instead of proper masks as the nation braces for an Omicron surge
So far NZ has seen a total of 29 Omicron cases but health officials have not managed to identified the source of the spread
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said Kiwi pre-school children should have masks, in line with strict guidelines issued by the American Centre for Disease Control.
‘At the moment, we’ve got a giant hole in our protection in New Zealand – and that is for pre-school children,’ he told the NZ Herald.
‘I don’t know any reason why we’re not looking at masks in those age groups.’
A NZ police officer demonstrates his mask, with a toddler next to him that some experts feel should also be wearing face coverings to stop the spread of Covid-19
The country recorded 62 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, with 10 new infections confirmed as coming from the highly transmissable Omicron variant.
So far NZ has diagnosed 29 Omicron cases but health officials have not managed to identified the source of the spread.
Ms Ardern announced several measures in anticipation of Omicron spreading rapidly, as it has done in other countries.
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One measure was ordering 80 million rapid antigen tests, although initially NZ expects to continue with PCR tests to confirm positive cases.
NZ has capacity to do 60,000 PCR tests a day but that is being ramped up to 78,000 a day.
Ms Ardern also continued to push the need for vaccination and especially booster shots, saying ‘two doses for Delta, three for Omicron’.
Masks must be worn at any businesses that serve food and drink, but only when people are not eating or drinking. This includes going to the counter and the bathroom.
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Children on publicly funded school excursions must also wear masks.
Workers covered by a vaccine mandate must wear surgical or N95 face masks at work, instead of cloth face masks.
Although preferred, N95 masks are not recommended or even mandated for most Kiwis because they cost more.
N95 masks are, however, required for high-risk settings where a vaccine mandate is in place.
Any Kiwis working in health and disability, education, fire and emergency, police, defence, and corrections must have vaccines.