New Zealand's opposition has wasted no time attacking the government for its Omicron plan, saying Jacinda Ardern "took a month off" over summer.
This week, the prime minister told Kiwis it was a matter of "when, not if" the infectious COVID-19 variant would appear in the community, and her government was preparing for up to tens of thousands of cases a day.
To date, health officials have picked up just a handful of Omicron cases, in stark contrast to Australia's widespread transmission.
The health ministry on Friday announced 23 community cases, and 44 border cases in quarantine.
There are 18 people in hospital, including one in intensive care. Both of those figures are the lowest in five months.
The most worrying case yet was confirmed on Friday in Palmerston North, linked to more than a dozen locations of interest which suggest community infection could have begun.
"This case was released on 16 January after returning a negative test result on five occasions throughout their stay (and) considered to be infectious from Monday 17 January," a health ministry statement read.
"The case became symptomatic on Wednesday and returned a positive COVID-19 test result on Wednesday evening."
When an outbreak is confirmed, Ms Ardern has pledged there will be no return to mass-scale lockdowns.
Instead, the government will prevent super-spreader style events and rely on stricter enforcement of the vaccine pass system.
After months of delay, it will also allow the use of rapid antigen tests, which will be free.
Given the Australian experience, Opposition Leader Chris Luxon said he was stunned to learn the government had not included details on supply chain arrangements, or isolation rules for workers.
"Nothing seems to have happened in the last month to prepare New Zealand. Instead Jacinda Ardern and her government took a month off," he said.
"We were expecting a much more comprehensive plan."
At a retreat for Labour MPs this week, Ms Ardern spoke of her gratitude that Kiwis enjoyed a summer spent largely free of restrictions.
However, Mr Luxon wasn't in such a charitable mood, taking aim at the lack of RATs in NZ, without saying whether he supported them being free.
"We've been talking about (RATs) for nine months ... we have 4.6 million kits in the country and they will be used immediately. Less than one per person. We need tens of millions of them," he said.
"Whether people want to pay for them or whether we do it free, that's a question we can sort through later. I'm very relaxed about that.
"The bigger issue is, are they even in the country for people to pay for, or get free?"
To help curb spikes in Omicron growth rates, the director-general of health has also upped isolation requirements for cases from 10 days to 14, and for close contacts from seven to 10 days.
"At this stage, our public health teams are focused strongly on stamping out early any Omicron cases in the community," a statement read.
Australian Associated Press
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