In a very short space of time Omicron has become the dominant COVID-19 variant in many countries and community cases are now in New Zealand, and it will rapidly spread in our community.
Protection through being fully vaccinated and having a booster shot remains the key defence against becoming seriously unwell with overseas evidence suggesting that most immunised people who contract Omicron will need to stay home and take time off work or school, rather than be hospitalised.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Pete Watson expects there to be pressure on the health system once Omicron, typically a mild upper respiratory infection, is in the community.
“What we know from our colleagues overseas is that once Omicron is in the community it will spread rapidly. People who come to hospital with just cold like symptoms and no other serious injury or illness will be sent home to isolate and monitor their symptoms.”
The team at Middlemore are well advanced on their planning to ensure health services continue with resources available.
“When Omicron breaks in the community, just like all employers, our workforce will be impacted as our people who contract Omicron will need to stay home and be off work. We will prioritise staffing of all our critical services and continue with as much elective surgery and outpatients’ clinics as we can.
“During pandemics babies are still born, people still have health issues like strokes and heart attacks, and treatment continues for patients such as dialysis, so our clinical pathways and infection prevention controls are critical to keep both patients and staff safe.
“We have plans to manage COVID bed capacity and patient pathways, and we’ll continue to work across the region to manage hospital admissions, vaccination roll outs and the administering of booster shots.”
While the health system prepares for a surge in COVID-19 cases it is equally important people plan for what they will do and how they will rest and recover at home if they get COVID-19.
“We have been urging people to be prepared and have a plan. People need to think about how they will get food and supplies, who their support person might be, and how they will safely isolate at home.
“Over and above this, the focus on vaccination remains vitally important, and overseas we are seeing the value of the booster shot in protection against becoming hospitalised with COVID related illnesses.”
More information on how to be prepared for COVID-19 is available here.