Whole genome sequencing has identified 11 samples of B.1.1.7 (known as the UK variant) and 6 samples of B.22.214.171.124 (known as the South Africa variant) since 6 January, as well as a number of other previously identified strains.
The lineages are all consistent with overseas exposure.
This brings us to a total of 29 samples of the UK variant and 7 of the SA variant. All of these were detected in managed isolation.
We expect we will continue to see both the UK variant and South Africa variant in positive cases in our managed isolation facilities here in New Zealand as these forms of the virus become increasingly common around the world.
All positive COVID-19 tests in New Zealand are sent to ESR to attempt whole genome sequencing as part of ongoing surveillance.
This surveillance allows us to identify and better understand these variants in order to inform and refine our overall elimination strategy, in particular optimising our current stringent border processes including testing and regularly reviewing infection prevention procedures.
Further steps have been taken recently to strengthen our border processes including adding an additional day 0/1 test and pre-departure testing for all passengers with the exception of those from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands.
The Ministry’s next update is planned for 1 pm on Friday 22 January.