A new Covid variant identified in South Africa – with warnings it is worse than Delta – was detected at the New Zealand border.
A new preprint study by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases warns the new variant has “mutated substantially” and is more mutations away from the original virus detected in Wuhan than any other variant previously detected.
The new variant, known as C. 1.2, first emerged in South Africa but has also been detected here, as well as England, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Portugal and Switzerland.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed today to the Herald that a case of the new variant was identified at the border in Auckland in late June 2021.
The spokesperson said the individual with C. 1.2 went straight into managed isolation as an overseas traveller and the variant did not enter the community.
“All variants of concern (VoC’s) are monitored closely by the ministry and public health staff,” the spokesperson said.
“This is one of the main reasons why ESR attempts genome sequences on all positive samples. While this variant may have arrived at the border the infection control measures meant that it did not enter the community.
“New Zealand is in a fortunate position and it’s important that we’re able to continue to whole genome sequence all cases as this too is a crucial part of New Zealand’s surveillance and elimination strategy.”
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the new variant was “one for us to watch”.
Some aspects of the new variant were concerning, such as the degree of illness it creates and vaccine escape.
The new variant could pose challenges to the first generation of vaccines. Scientists say it’s also possible that people in the United Kingdom who were infected with the earlier variants could be vulnerable to reinfection.