Two new subvariants of the omicron Covid-19 strain have been detected in the community.
These are the first confirmed BA.4 and BA.5 cases, and there has so far been no confirmed link to the border. However, it’s worth remembering that very few cases in New Zealand are being genome sequenced currently because the vast majority of positive infections are confirmed via rapid antigen tests.
“These omicron subvariants are prevalent overseas and have been detected at our border for many weeks,” said the Ministry of Health. “Their presence in the community is not unexpected and further cases are expected.” There are four cases of BA.5 and one case of the BA.4 in the community, all based on whole genome sequencing.
Read more: Siouxsie Wiles on what we know about the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants
The ministry has also confirmed an additional seven cases of the “marginally more transmissible” BA.2.12.1 subvariant in the community, from whole genome sequencing of tests returned on May 18.
“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,” said the ministry.
In addition to the community testing, wastewater results returned in the past week have detected BA.4 or BA.5 in Auckland, New Plymouth and Porirua and BA.2.12.1 in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Palmerston North and Taupō. “Together the community cases and wastewater results suggest that the BA.4/5 and BA.2.12.1 Omicron subvariants are circulating in parts of the community in New Zealand,” the ministry.
There has been no recommended change to our existing Covid-19 health settings, the ministry said.
Rolling average of cases declines, 14 new deaths announced
Meanwhile, the rolling average of new Covid-19 community cases has once again declined, though only slightly. It’s sitting at 6,850 today, while last Friday it was 6,960.
There are 6,232 new cases being reported today, with 1,907 in Auckland.
Another 14 people with Covid-19 have died, the ministry reported. Thirteen people have died in the past eight days, while an historical death from late 2020 has also been added to the death toll.
“This case had recovered at the time of death but was recently classified as having Covid-19 as a contributory cause of their death,” the ministry explained. “This will continue to happen occasionally due to the timing of the mortality coding process, particularly in instances where deaths where Covid-19 is a contributory cause, and the death falls outside of the 28 day period of testing positive for Covid.”
The official pandemic death toll has risen to 1,210 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths sits at 12.
Of the people whose deaths are being reporting today, one was from Northland, three were from the Auckland region, one was from Taranaki, one from Whanganui; one from the Wellington region, one from Nelson-Marlborough, four from Canterbury, one from South Canterbury and one from Southern. Four were women and ten were men.
There are 390 people in hospital with Covid-19, including eight in intensive care.