Associate Health Minister and infectious diseases expert Ayesha Verrall says the possibility that the UK variant is being transmitted without people being in “in direct contact” means New Zealand has to be aggressive in controlling the latest cluster.
Three members of an Auckland family tested positive for the virus yesterday, prompting the Government to move the city to Alert Level 3 overnight while the rest of NZ was moved to Level 2.
The three cases have the UK variant, it was confirmed this morning.
“We might find that more of the contacts develop the disease in this case than in the other variants. We just need to make sure we’re working really hard to contact trace really quickly,” said Verrall, the Associate Minister of Research, Science and Innovation and the Minister for Seniors.
“There is a possibility we’re seeing transmission by less common means where the people don’t need to be in direct contact.
“That’s another area where we’ve worked really hard, using more precautions against airborne transmissions in MIQ and our cleaning regimes in border areas.”
Verrall said research has found the UK variant is 50 per cent more transmissible that other variants but reports that it is more deadly need more investigation.
“There are signals coming through in the data but I’m reluctant to say they’re necessarily true at this stage," she said.
"There is some concern that people have a harder time when they get the illness than with other variants, but I think that’s also in the context of UK hospitals being quite overwhelmed so I’m cautious about how we interpret that.
“What we have to do in New Zealand is be really aggressive with control.
"Each individual case of transmission, there’s a lot of chance in there so I think we need be cautious overall in dealing with this variant."
Both the UK and South African variant are more contagious, with early research indicating the South African variant “is showing some resistance to vaccines”.
“It’s stuff we need to follow closely as we make decisions,” Verrall said.