New Zealand community case confirmed as South African variant

Sydney, Australia, Jan 25 (efe-epa).- New Zealand health authorities said Monday that the first community case of Covid-19 in months, which was reported at the weekend, is the South African variant thought to be more infectious than the original strain.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that genomic testing has determined that the 56-year-old woman, who tested negative twice in a quarantine hotel for international arrivals before being discharged into the community, has the same South African variant as another person staying on the same hotel floor in Auckland.

However, the New Zealand authorities do not know exactly how the woman, who left the Pullman Hotel on Jan. 13, contracted the virus.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said investigations were underway, including looking into whether she contracted it through the ventilation system.

The woman had left New Zealand late last year and traveled to Spain and the Netherlands, before departing London with a stopover in Singapore. She arrived in Auckland on Dec. 30, but is believed to have contracted the virus between Jan. 9 and 13, when she was released.

She then went tripping around the lower Northland region with her husband, visiting 30 places, while using the Covid Tracer app, which recorded times and details of every place she visited.

To date two of the 15 people considered close contacts of the woman, who is now in self-isolation at home north of Auckland, have tested negative for Covid-19.

Amid fears of the spread of the highly contagious strain in the country, which operates as normal with no restrictions except at borders, Hipkins said closing borders to high-risk countries was not feasible.

“We do have to provide that opportunity for New Zealanders to come home,” he said. “People are waiting a long time to get home.”

New Zealand, which had not had a community infection since Nov. 18, has acted decisively since the beginning of the pandemic, which has allowed it to keep accumulated confirmed cases at about 1,930, including 25 deaths and 64 active cases, all arrivals from abroad and in quarantine hotels.

The authorities have announced that they will vaccinate their 5 million residents in the second quarter of this year after acquiring more than 18 million doses of vaccines, including 10.72 million from Novavax, 7.6 million from AstraZeneca, 5 million from Janssen and 750,000 from Pfizer-BioNTech. EFE-EPA


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