Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: NZ has first case of new XE variant; two children under 9 among deaths

A person who has travelled from overseas to New Zealand has been confirmed as having the XE variant of Omicron – the first known detection of the variant in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, two children under 9 are among 19 deaths announced today by the Ministry of Health.

The person with the new variant arrived on 19 April, was tested on 20 April and whole genome sequencing subsequently confirmed the XE variant.

They are isolating at home.

The Ministry of Health said XE has been spreading overseas and its arrival 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 XE and no changes are required.”

XE is a combination of BA.1 and BA.2 sub variants of Omicron. There is some early evidence that it may be slightly more transmissible than BA.2, which is more transmissible than BA.1, the ministry said.

“There is no evidence to date that XE causes more severe disease than other Omicron lineages, noting that it takes weeks or months to identify the severity of each new variant.”

There are 7930 new cases of Covid-19 in the community, and 19 people have died – as holidaymakers are warned to have plans in place should they catch the virus.

The other deaths were of a person aged in their 20s, four in their 60s, two in their 70s, five in their 80s and five people aged over 90.

Nine were male and ten were female.

The deaths, which include people who died over the last seven days, take the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 665.

Six of those who died were from Auckland, four from Canterbury, two from Waikato and one each from Northland, Bay of Plenty, Whanganui, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson-Marlborough and Southern district health board areas.

“This is a very sad time for whanau and friends and our thoughts and condolences are with them”, the ministry said.

The number of community cases detected has risen, with today’s seven-day rolling average 8475, up from 8283 a week ago. The highest number of new community cases was in Auckland, with 2037, ahead of Canterbury onf 1306 and Southern on 929.

Other new cases were in: Northland (275), Waikato (548), Bay of Plenty (300), Lakes (163), Hawke’s Bay (253), MidCentral (321), Whanganui (123), Taranaki (263), Tairāwhiti (73), Wairarapa (83), Capital and Coast (459), Hutt Valley (240), Nelson Marlborough (294), South Canterbury (164), West Coast (93) and unknown (6). A further 55 new cases were detected at the border.

Other new cases were in: Northland (275), Waikato (548), Bay of Plenty (300), Lakes (163), Hawke’s Bay (253), MidCentral (321), Whanganui (123), Taranaki (263), Tairāwhiti (73), Wairarapa (83), Capital and Coast (459), Hutt Valley (240), Nelson Marlborough (294), South Canterbury (164), West Coast (93) and unknown (6). A further 55 new cases were detected at the border.

The number of active community cases is 59,300, with 875,794 cases confirmed in New Zealand since the pandemic began.

Kiwis who have headed away on holiday have also been warned to have plans in place in case they contract Covid-19 or become a household contact.

“You would need to self-isolate and likely remain wherever you test positive or become a household contact,” the ministry said.

“There may be extra costs involved in paying for additional accommodation and changing your travel plans.”

People who used their own vehicle to travel could travel back home to isolate, taking public health measures to ensure they did not infect anyone on their way home.

That included using self-service petrol stations and maintaining social distance.

“However, if you have used public transport or travelled between islands, you won’t be able to isolate at your home,” the ministry said. “So it is important you have a plan and the ability to isolate where you are holidaying, if you need to do so.”

The ministry said the three actions everyone could do to help protect themselves and others over the long weekend were:

Be up to date with vaccinations, including a booster if you’ve not yet had one. If you are planning to be away, get boosted before you go.

Wear a mask. Masks are still required in many indoor settings. A good rule of thumb is to wear a mask in indoor public settings as we know that mask use halves the risk of spread of Covid-19. You must also wear a face mask on all flights and public transport, in taxis and ride-share services — unless you are exempt.

Stay home and avoid others if you’re unwell, isolating or waiting for the results of a Covid-19 test.

Friday case data

The locations of yesterday’s cases were: Northland (399), Auckland (2241), Waikato (731), Bay of Plenty (340), Lakes (179), Hawke’s Bay (316), MidCentral (353), Whanganui (128), Taranaki (266), Tairāwhiti (108), Wairarapa (117), Capital and Coast (537), Hutt Valley (282), Nelson Marlborough (317), Canterbury (1610), South Canterbury (224), Southern (1116) and the West Coast (121).

The breakdown of Covid cases in DHB hospitals was: Northland (45), Waitematā (84), Counties Manukau (72), Auckland (80), Waikato (34), Bay of Plenty (28), Lakes (10), Tairāwhiti (one), Hawke’s Bay (12), Taranaki (nine), Whanganui (two), MidCentral (11), Wairarapa (four), Hutt Valley (12), Capital and Coast (12), Nelson Marlborough (11), Canterbury (66), South Canterbury (five), West Coast (one) and Southern (23).

The location of five cases was unknown.

The vaccination status of those in the Northern Region was:

Unvaccinated or not eligible: 57 cases / 21 per cent

Partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose: 5 cases / 2 per cent

Double vaccinated at least seven days before being reported as a case: 79 cases / 29 per cent

Received booster at least seven days before being reported as a case: 128 cases / 46 per cent

Unknown: Seven cases / 3 per cent

To date, 95.2 per cent of eligible New Zealanders aged 12 and older have been double dosed and 71.2 per cent have had a booster.

For Māori, 88.2 per cent have had two doses and 55.2 per cent have been boosted. For Pacific people, these figures are 96.6 per cent and 57.3 per cent respectively.

Of children, aged 5-11, 54.2 per cent have had their first dose and 22.1 per cent have had two doses.


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