(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand will tighten Covid-19 restrictions when the omicron variant hits but won’t resort to lockdowns, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

When omicron starts to spread in the community, the country will move to “red” from “orange” in its Covid protection framework, which will see gathering limits of 100 imposed on events, social distancing in hospitality venues and greater use of face masks, Ardern told reporters Thursday in New Plymouth. However, “we won’t use lockdowns,” she said.

Ardern is bracing for an imminent outbreak of the highly infections coronavirus strain, with several cases already confirmed to have been in the community. While 93% of people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, the government is now racing to administer booster shots that provide greater protection against omicron.

“We won’t be able to stop omicron entering the community, but we can use tools to try and slow it down,” Ardern said. “By achieving high levels of booster protection we will be able to reduce the spread and severity of omicron when it arrives.”

The Ministry of Health earlier confirmed three omicron cases in the Auckland region, and possibly a fourth, as well as another possible case in Palmerston North.

The government is reviewing whether to begin a phased reopening of the border next month to further delay the spread of omicron. The number of cases caught in managed isolation facilities has surged in recent weeks, prompting officials to stop offering new spots.

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