New Zealand reported four cases of the COVID-19 Omicron subvariant BA.5 and one case of the subvariant BA.4 in the community on Friday.
The detecting of the cases was all based on whole genome sequencing of tests. These are the first BA.4 and BA.5 cases reported in New Zealand community, with no clear link to the border, according to the Ministry of Health.
The ministry also reported seven cases of BA.2.12.1 in the community, it said.
These Omicron subvariants are prevalent overseas and have been detected at the border for many weeks. “Their presence in the community is not unexpected and further cases are expected,” said a ministry statement.
Emerging data suggests BA.2.12.1 is marginally more transmissible than BA.2, the dominant subvariant currently circulating in New Zealand. There is some clinical data to suggest the BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants have increased transmissibility when compare to BA.2, but no data suggesting they cause more severe illness, it said.
The vast majority of recently sequenced cases in New Zealand continue to be of the Omicron BA.2 sub-variant, with small number of cases with the BA.1 sub-variant, it added.
New Zealand recorded 6,232 new community cases of COVID-19 and 14 more deaths from the pandemic, the ministry said.
Among the new community infections, 1,907 were reported in the largest city Auckland. In addition, 69 new cases of COVID-19 were detected at the New Zealand border.
The country’s health sector is facing challenges brought by COVID-19 and other winter illnesses. An increasing number of medical staff sick leaves have added pressure to the overcapacity of hospitals and clinics nationwide.
Currently, 390 COVID-19 patients are being treated in New Zealand hospitals, including eight in intensive care units or high dependency units.
New Zealand has reported 1,179,634 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit the country. Enditem