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The Ministry of Health informed thisquality that the United Kingdom (UK) COVID-19 variant had been detected in New Zealand; however, it is not in the community.
The variant was identified as UK variant of COVID-19 known as 20B/501Y.V1 (Lineage B.1.1.7).
“All positive COVID-19 tests in New Zealand are sent to ESR for whole-genome sequencing as part of our overall elimination strategy. As part of routine sequencing of these particular cases, matches to the UK variant were confirmed,” said the Ministry.
Six cases were confirmed to have it, five of whom travelled from the United Kingdom and one from South Africa, arriving into New Zealand between December 13 and 25. The cases did regular routine testing in managed isolation as part of routine ‘surveillance testing' or because they developed symptoms.
When the cases were confirmed as positive, they were immediately transferred to Auckland's quarantine facility.
Four of these cases recovered, and a final health check allowed them to leave the facility.
“The cases are all cared for with the same high level of infection prevention measures as all COVID-19 positive cases, with daily health checks and use of PPE. Infection prevention control protocols are in place for all staff, and we can assure the public that there is no increased risk to the community,” said the Ministry.
The UK variant is reportedly more transmissible than other variants of the COVID-19 virus. The Ministry says there's no evidence at this current stage that the length of the infection period is any different to other variants of COVID-19. Severe illnesses are not yet proven with the new variant.
All cases have to complete the required 14d recovery or waiting period before being allowed to leave. This includes at least 72 hours without any symptoms and a minimum of 10 days since symptom onset or a positive test.
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