1033 new Covid cases in Canterbury; two more people with BA.5 variant

Active cases in Canterbury as of 8am on Monday. Credit: CDHB
Active cases in Canterbury as of 8am on Monday. Credit: CDHB
There are 1033 new cases of Covid-19 in Canterbury today - and two more people who arrived in New Zealand from South Africa have the BA.5 Omicron variant.

Across the country, there are 6407 new community cases, including 96 in the South Canterbury DHB area.

The Ministry of Health also reported a further two Covid-related deaths in Wairarapa and Whanganui. It takes the total number of publicly reported deaths to 862 and the seven-day rolling average to 15. The people who died were both males in their 80s.

There are 368 people in New Zealand hospitals with the virus - including 18 in intensive care. Fifty-nine of them are in Canterbury DHB hospitals and three are in South Canterbury hospitals.

On Sunday, the ministry reported a border case had tested positive for the Omicron sub-variant BA.5. 

Today it said another two people who travelled to New Zealand from overseas have been confirmed as having the BA.5 variant.

The case reported on Sunday travelled from South Africa and arrived in New Zealand on April 26. They returned a positive RAT from their day 5/6 test on May 1, the ministry said.

Today's BA.5 cases returned positive RAT and PCR results, the ministry said.

"Whole genome sequencing subsequently confirmed the BA.5 variant. Following the first BA.5 case reported on Sunday, there are now three people who are confirmed to have the variant, all of whom travelled from South Africa," the ministry said.

"Both BA.4 and BA.5 have been reported in southern Africa and Europe, and both variants have been detected in Australia. The arrival of the BA.5 sub-variant in New Zealand is not unexpected.

"At this stage, the public health settings already in place to manage other Omicron variants are assessed to be appropriate for managing BA.5 and no changes are required.

"The BA.5 Omicron subvariant is being monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO). It can take weeks or months to assess the severity of each new variant or sub-variant, so the Ministry of Health will continue to monitor the emerging evidence closely."

Today's new community cases are in Northland (146), Auckland (2,066), Waikato (441), Bay of Plenty (195), Lakes (106), Hawke’s Bay (186), MidCentral (225), Whanganui (54), Taranaki (143), Tairāwhiti (36), Wairarapa (63), Capital and Coast (496), Hutt Valley (177), Nelson Marlborough (224), Canterbury (1,033), South Canterbury (96), Southern (654), West Coast (62), and Unknown (4). There are 57 new cases at the border.

This takes the number of active community cases to 52,339. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers has increased again. Today it is 7479, whereas last Monday it was 7553.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 992,732 cases in this country - nearly one million, or one fifth of the population.

There are currently 52,339 active cases in the community.

The 368 cases in hospital are in Northland: 10; Waitemata: 42; Counties Manukau: 33; Auckland: 63; Waikato: 40; Bay of Plenty: 18; Lakes: 4; Tairāwhiti: 1; Hawke’s Bay: 14; Taranaki: 7; Whanganui: 1; MidCentral: 19; Wairarapa: 3; Hutt Valley: 4; Capital and Coast: 12; Nelson Marlborough: 6; Canterbury: 59; South Canterbury: 3; West Coast: 3; Southern: 26.

The average age of the people in hospital is 59. 

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said the variants arrival to New Zealand wouldn't cause infection rates to go up immediately.

"It's not a game-changer - not in the way that Delta and Omicron was," he told the Herald.

"The starting point is that all of these are sub-variants of Omicron. It's not a new virus, and the net effect on the population will be similar."

But Baker's assessment comes with a major caveat: Omicron and its sub-variants should not ever be taken lightly.

In South Africa, where the infected travellers came from, the sub-variants have been blamed for a new surge in cases.

Yesterday there were 5647 new cases in the community and three people died with the virus.

While daily case numbers continue to drop, the seven-day rolling average on Sunday was 7510 - which is up by close to 100 compared to last Sunday's 7414.

Ardern working from home
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been forced to work from home due to partner Clarke Gayford's infection.

Ardern appeared via Zoom on TVNZ's Breakfast this morning, as she isolates at home.

"I just did a radio interview where Neve, through the duration of it, chased me around the room with a banana - so anything could happen.

Ardern told AM she had no Covid symptoms and was able to adequately work from home.

"We've managed to re-shape a lot of the work we do in Parliament so that we can do it remotely."

During the interview, Ardern's daughter Neve could be heard and seen in the background – although Ardern's background was blurred.

Ardern apologised for the disturbance but couldn't help letting out a little laugh.

"I thought I had it totally covered, I've got some TV parenting, I had snacks ... it doesn't matter what you do."

-With NZ Herald


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