It is “inevitable” that Omicron will leak into the community, there will be some impact on the supply chain, but officials are working hard to minimize it, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.

Photo: Pool / NZME / Mark Mitchell

Robertson provided an update on how officials are working to minimize the impact of Omicron, and detailed the support that will be available for those affected by the outbreak at a press conference today.

Evidence from overseas shows Omicron has had an impact on the supply chain as thousands of workers self-isolate.

The government is working closely with the supermarket, supply chain and logistics sectors to ensure there are no supply issues and supermarket shelves remain stocked, a- he declared.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced that the whole country will go through a red light at 11.59pm tonight after the cases of the Omicron community are confirmed.

She also said the government was planning a three-step approach to responding to Omicron. More details will be provided on Wednesday.

Based on plans for the staged approach, if there were 25,000 cases a day, there would likely be 350,000 people in self-isolation, Robertson said.

“Obviously that’s a significant number of people. I know business continuity planning is something most businesses in New Zealand have done and they’re working to see how they can cope.”

A lot of work is being done to ensure there won’t be any major disruptions, “but inevitably there will be,” he said.

There is a “high degree of uncertainty” for businesses, he added.

He reiterated that no one needs to panic to buy as supermarkets will remain open.

“Planning and preparing is good, but needing to buy three toilet paper carts is not.”

Support available for cases, contacts, companies

Robertson said support will be available to help people who cannot be at work because they are infected or in close contact during the Omicron outbreak.

The Leave Assistance Scheme is available to employers and the self-employed to help pay affected workers.

It is paid at the same rates as the wage subsidy.

There will also be a program in place for those unable to work from home while awaiting Covid-19 test results.

Other programs, including the Small Business Cash Loan Program and the Event Transition Assistance Program, remain available.

Full details of these payments can be found on the Department of Social Development website.

Robertson said there are resources within the Covid Response and Recovery Fund to handle the immediate response to Omicron.

“To be perfectly honest, we can’t afford not to. One of the important things we know here is that if people get sick they should stay home and self-isolate – that’s as well as we limit the spread. And therefore it can be a much worse situation if they don’t.”

More targeted supports may become available in the coming weeks, Robertson said.

“If additional resources are needed to protect the lives and livelihoods of New Zealanders, we will do as we have done before and make those resources available.”

New Zealand’s debt level was lower than expected, he said.

“New Zealand has one of the strongest government financial positions in the world and our public accounts continue to outperform forecasts, giving us fiscal space to meet Omicron’s costs.”