As the Omicron virus begins to circulate in the community and the government continues with its goal for restricting and slowing down the spread, it is highly desirable that members of the community are armed with the right information (and not necessarily the right commodity) related to a variant of the virus that is rampant overseas.

So far many New Zealanders have shown a penchant to arm themselves with certain commodities (toilet paper is one of the most exotic ones) when the news of community spread of Covid-19 emerged, however, it would be more helpful if this time we are armed better with the ‘right information,’ which could be more scarce than commonly assumed.

Although New Zealand is nowhere near to what Australia has seen – a super rapid spread of the Omicron virus in a very short period of time, experts are worried that soon we may have to face a similar level of spread that can overburden our health system.

The government’s move into Red Light is an attempt to restrict and slow down the spread of Omicron within the community and ensure that our health system does not get overwhelmed.

In this regard, it would be helpful if members of the community are educated and armed with the right knowledge about the Omicron virus and contribute to the national endeavour of saving lives.

The difference in symptoms for Omicron versus Delta and other previous variants

Experiences from overseas and expert opinions confirm that there is a lot of congruence in the fact that the Omicron virus despite being far more transmissible than the earlier Delta variant yet is less impactful and lethal.

Sore throats and runny noses are one of the most commonly reported symptoms among Omicron infected people, including in vaccinated people.

Fevers, coughs, and loss of taste or smell – as identified as main symptoms of previous variants have dwindled.

According to a study runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and sore throat were the top five symptoms among people in the UK who recorded a positive COVID-19 test in the past few weeks.

Fewer instances of persistent coughs, shivers, and high fevers were reported in Omicron-affected people.

Comparably, instances of loss of smell or taste, chest pain, or shortness of breath were further rarer.

Keep an eye on scratchy sore throat, headache, and congestion

Overseas experiences tell that those doubly vaccinated, affected with Omicron start out with a dry, scratchy throat that causes sharp pain when they swallow.

Many experts concur that it is a very prominent symptom, followed by nasal congestion, dry cough, and body aches.

Importantly, though fatigue has become more pronounced, with affected people reporting feeling more tired and body pain.

It may be a case that once affected, more rest and sleep would be more helpful.

Get your booster dose ASAP

It is becoming increasingly an established rule that doubly vaccinated people are likely to have a less severe impact of Omicron virus and the third booster dose will play a crucial role in reducing the severity of the virus when affected.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to get the booster dose as soon as one becomes eligible.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to get the right information and health advice about getting their 5-11-year-old children vaccinated at the earliest - especially because, the government has decided to keep schools open this year.

Prepare a small medical kit at your home

Although there is no substitute to seeing your GP or a health professional, there is no harm in keeping a small medical kit handy at home in anticipation of a time when Omicron spread becomes rampant in the community and our health system comes under stress.

However, please do not unnecessarily hoard any medicine (like previous occasions of hoarding of groceries and toilet paper) as there might be some disruption in supply chains owing to Omicron affecting transport and supply sector workers.

Aim for a modest at-home Covid management kit that could be helpful in managing the symptoms (sore throat, runny nose, headache, etc) in a manner, not risking others and abets in proper rest and recovery.

Over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol and ibuprofen are being recommended by many doctors to manage these basic symptoms at home.

This is only for those people who have no underlying conditions (especially liver condition or asthma), who should not be taking anything before consultation with their GPs.

It is also helpful to keep a working thermometer to keep a record of fevers and inform your GP or health professional when needed to provide them better chances of recommending the right intervention.

Consider stocking your regular medicine

It is also time to speak or visit your GP before any rapid Omicron spread restricts the opportunity and stock up the prescribed medicines. In the eventuality of a rampant community spread even one less visit outside would be helpful and contribute in slowing the spread of the virus.

What to expect when self-isolating at home

Most people with COVID-19 are likely to have a mild to moderate illness. They will fully recover in their own home. Here is what you need to know about self-isolating at home if you have COVID-19.

What happens after you test positive

If you test positive for COVID-19, your doctor or a health professional will call you to discuss:

  • what it means to have COVID-19 and what you need to do
  • all the people you have had contact with recently
  • if you will move into a quarantine facility or self-isolate at home.

You will need to isolate for at least 14 days while you recover from COVID-19 and be symptom-free for 72 hours.

You can isolate in your home or suitable alternative accommodation. This could be another property that you have access to, or are provided, that is more suitable for self-isolation than where you usually live. You can self-isolate there instead.

While you are isolating at home, you will have a dedicated contact person check up on you and make sure that you and your whanau are safe.

It is normal to feel nervous or unsure about what the next few weeks will look like.

Household contacts

Anyone in your household will need to remain in isolation for at least 10 days after you have been released as a case. This means they will need to be in isolation for longer than you as the case will.

Household contacts are considered Close Contacts.